Who Is A Doula And How Are They Helpful?

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During pregnancy, you would love to have the constant guidance of an experienced professional. A doula could be the answer. Like travel guides help you go through destinations, doulas support you through delivery and postpartum experience.

A research study that covered the Medicaid recipients in the US has found that the cesarean sections were fewer among women who availed of doula services (1). If you are pregnant and want to know more about doulas, read on as MomJunction tells you about these professional helpers, the services they provide, and ways to select them.

Who Is A Doula?

A doula is an expert who can provide emotional, physical, and informational assistance and advocacy during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum (2). They do not offer any medical care but you can use them as advisors or counselors.

Doulas are usually called labor companions, labor support specialists, birth assistants, labor support professionals or labor assistants.

Types Of Doula

Most often, a doula is referred to as a birth doula or labor support companion but antepartum and postpartum doulas are also available. They perform different roles based on your requirements.

  • Antepartum doulas support women who have high-risk pregnancies. They offer help to those who are put on bed rest and help them deal with stressful and emotionally draining situations.
  • Birth doulas support you throughout labor and delivery. They discuss all the options of delivery, listen to your fears, and understand your preferred mode of childbirth before you go into the labor. Some might come to your home when you are in the early stage of labor, help you stay comfortable during contractions and continue to support you through delivery.
  • Postpartum doulas offer support to the new mother in the initial few weeks of childbirth. They give information regarding the baby’s feed and care. They physically support by cooking meals, cleaning home, and fill the position when the new mother needs a break. Overall, they help new parents feel confident in their roles.

In the next section, we give you more details of the services a doula could provide.

How Does Your Doula Work With You?

Most of the doula-client interactions begin a few months before the baby’s due date. In this way, they develop a close relationship where the mother feels free to ask any questions and express her concerns (3) (4).

During pregnancy, your doula:

  • Meets you around second or third trimesters.
  • Provides relaxation and massage services to make you feel comfortable.
  • Answers your doubts.
  • Helps you create a birth plan, track labor, and understand the delivery procedures.
  • Explains about any complications that you might have.
  • Supports you on the way to the hospital during labor.

[ Read: Who Is A Midwife ]

In the delivery room:

  • Helps you breathe through contractions.
  • Stays with you to make you as comfortable as possible.
  • Gives you a massage.
  • Provides you with food or drinks that you may want during labor.
  • Helps you get into a comfortable position.
  • Conveys your delivery preference and other requirements to the hospital staff.

After the childbirth:

  • Assists you with newborn care such as changing the diapers, making the baby sleep, etc.,
  • Assists you in breastfeeding.
  • Teaches the new dad and other members of the family on dealing with the baby’s needs.
  • Performs light household chores.

Doulas are not only helpful in several practical and psychological ways but also provide some medical benefits to the mother.

Benefits Of Having A Doula

It is a boon to have someone with you throughout your pregnancy and birth experience. Seeking support from a professional makes your pregnancy easier. Let’s see how it helps vis-à-vis a delivery without a doula (5):

  • Reduces the need for pain relief medications during labor.
  • Fewer requests for epidurals.
  • Shorter labor length.
  • Lower incidence of cesarean sections.
  • A decrease in the intervention of labor tools such as vacuum and forceps.
  • Lower risk of negative childbirth experiences.
  • Positive childbirth satisfaction.
  • Improves mother-baby bonding after birth.
  • Less anxiety and depression postpartum.

While your partner or a family member can provide you with some support, a doula’s contribution is much more valuable because they are trained for that.

Education And Training Standards For Doulas

Doulas receive training on the birthing process and the postpartum period, and they earn a certificate. The criteria of doula training may vary from one region to the other.

However, a doula does not have any medical training and does not offer any medical or clinical assistance. Your doula cannot suggest any medications. They can only serve you and make you feel better.

If you are convinced that doula services are worth trying, you would want to find one for you.

How Do You Find A Doula?

You can find a doula through word of mouth. You can get referrals from your obstetrician, hospital, birthing centers, a friend who has used a doula, and social networks.

If you are already going to a childbirth education class, you can get information about local doulas. There are also agencies that offer doula services. You can find contact information of doulas in your area from their websites.

After you get a list of references, meet and talk to them. You need to:

  • Seek details about their training and check their certificate, if possible.
  • Ask about the number of births they have attended.
  • Know their philosophy regarding childbirth, the services they offer, and the fee they charge.
  • Tell them about your expectations.
  • Find a person with whom you can feel comfortable.

Do not be in haste but take time to find a good doula who fits in your budget.

Cost Of A Doula

The cost of a doula varies significantly depending on their years of experience, skills, and services they provide. Moreover, expenses of a doula are not covered under medical insurances. Therefore, it is good to discuss your budget with them and negotiate based on their experience and skills.

Next, we answer some more commonly asked questions about a doula and her care.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need a doula if I am having unmedicated labor or planning to deliver at the hospital?

Support from a doula is beneficial no matter where and how you plan your delivery. A doula is still helpful even if you are having unmedicated labor or hospital delivery.

2. Do I need a doula if my partner is with me during labor?

The primary purpose of a doula is not to replace the partner but work as a team with him. A doula supports your partner in comforting you during labor. Also, they help him enjoy the experience without getting pressurized so that he remembers everything about the childbirth.

[ Read: Signs Of Labor And What To Do When You Are In It ]

3. How is a doula different from a midwife?

A doula is a childbirth coach, whereas a midwife is a healthcare provider whose expertise is similar to that of a doctor. Doulas offer only physical and emotional support, while midwives give medical support (6).

4. Can a doula help me with an epidural?

A doula cannot assist in giving you an epidural but her presence could offer you emotional and informational support.

5. Can a doula attend cesarean births?

You can use a doula’s support while having a C-section. However, it depends on the hospital’s policy on whether to allow a doula in the operating room.

Hiring a doula gives you confidence and solid support at times when you go through bouts of fear and anxiety. It reduces the burden on your partner and makes your birthing process smoother and gentler. She could be a good addition to your birthing team and a real friend in your journey through parenthood.

Did you hire a doula during pregnancy? Let us know about your experiences, in the comments section below.


1. Katy Backes Kozhimannil et al.; Doula care, birth outcomes, and costs among medicaid beneficiaries; Am J Public Health (2013)
2. Prashanthinie (Prashi) Mohan; What’s a doula? a professional who lowers birth costs and improves outcomes, that’s who; The University of Arizona Health Sciences (2016)
3. The difference a doula makes; Johns Hopkins University
4. Kaylee S. Wolfe; “A doula can only do so much”: Birth doulas and stratification in united states maternity care; Bowdoin College Bowdoin Digital Commons (2015)
5. Lois Eve Ballen and Ann J . Fulcher; Nurses and doulas: complementary roles to provide optimal maternity care; Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing Clinical Issues (2006)
6. Alexa Ross; Birthing doulas a meditation on the liminality of birth workers; Bryn Mawr College


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