The term doula is probably one that you never heard before you became pregnant. In fact, when you heard it, I’m sure you asked yourself, “What is a doula?”
You’re not alone.
Although certainly not a “thing” in the days of my mother and grandma, doulas are becoming increasingly popular these days.
But, what exactly does a doula do and do you need one for your delivery?
What is a doula?
Doulas are women who are trained to assist women throughout their pregnancy and delivery. Though doulas are trained, they are not medical professionals.
These women have experience with childbirth and have been educated on how to provide mental, emotional, and physical support to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and even after delivery. Their purpose to help make the experience for moms more enjoyable.
Doulas also assist by coaching mothers through delivery, helping to make them comfortable with massages and breathing exercises, and communicating requests to the medical staff.
They may also answer questions about delivery, developing a birth plan, and educating parents on the delivery process and childcare.
Where does the term “doula” come from?
According to the Oxford dictionary, a doula is “a woman, typically without formal obstetric training, who is employed to provide guidance and support to a pregnant woman during labor.”
The term, pronounced do͞olə, is derived from the Greek word doulē meaning, “female slave.” This would suggest that slave girls assisted with labor and delivery during that time period.
What does a doula do?
Though services vary by the doula, in general, a birth doula’s services include:
- Teaches breathing and relaxation skills
- Helps develop a birth plan
- Provides physical comfort during labor including massages and positioning
- Communicates desires to medical staff
- Provides support and encouragement to mom and dad
- Assists with coaching during delivery
- Provides breastfeeding education and assistance
- Provides information to help mothers make informed decisions
A postpartum doula will support the mother and family after the child is born. Their services may include minor house tacks and helping to care for the newborn and siblings.
Benefits of a Doula
Studies have shown that doula assisted births tend to result in improved physical and emotional outcomes for the mother and baby.
Although hiring a doula is certainly a personal choice, there are some cited benefits of having this support. It may be particularly beneficial if you do not have family nearby or a partner or spouse to support you.
The use of doulas is linked to:
- Shorter labor
- Lesser likelihood of a c-section
- Reduced risk of other medical interventions
- Lower need for medication
Doulas provide continuous support during childbirth that positively supports parents through labor and delivery.
Do hospitals allow doulas?
Though in most cases, hospitals will allow doulas. However, check with your specific location to be sure.
What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?
Though a midwife and a doula provide similar support, they serve two very different functions.
A nurse-midwife is medically trained in nursing, midwifery, and obstetrics and gynecology. They can serve as a healthcare provider for women during their pregnancy and childbirth. They can also deliver babies in hospitals, birthing centers, or at the patient’s home.
Midwives often support women who desire to have a natural childbirth. However, they will consult with a physician and refer mothers who may experience medical issues during pregnancy and delivery.
Though not all midwives have nursing degrees, they must be certified and trained in midwifery.
In contrast to midwives, a doula can be considered a childbirth coach who provides non-medical care.
With that said, a doula does not deliver the baby.
How to find a Doula
You can quickly find a doula in your area by searching the DONA International database. This is the first and largest certifying organization for doulas.
Another way to find a reputable doula is through referrals. Check with your Ob-Gyn or midwife for recommendations.
Before hiring a doula, DONA International suggests conducting an interview or having an initial consultation.
According to the organization, here are the things that you should look for:
- Training – You’ll want to know their credentials and that they have formal training to assist you.
- Certification status – Check to see if their certification is still valid or if it has lapsed.
- Experience – Get an understanding of their experience level and if you feel that it’s sufficient for you.
- Availability – Doulas can get booked up. Find out if they are even available to support you during your pregnancy and delivery.
- Services offered – Find out exactly what services are included and what you can expect.
- Compatibility – Determine if your personalities are compatible. This person will be supporting you, so you’ll need to enjoy being around each other.
- Fees – Know the fees so that you can decide if it’s within your budget.
They also provide a step-by-step doula interview checklist with questions to ask.
How much do doula’s cost?
The cost for a doula will vary by location and services. This can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. It’s important that you discuss costs with your spouse to determine if it is within your budget.
You should also discuss costs during your interviews with prospective doulas. You may share your budget with them, as they may be willing to negotiate.
Are doulas covered under insurance?
You should check with your insurance provider to determine is a doula is covered under your plan.
Should you hire a doula?
Hiring a doula is not necessary for childbirth. It is completely up to you and your spouse to determine if it’s right for your experience.
If you’re able to, speak with other friends and family members who have used a doula to get insight into their expe1ience.
Lastly, make a decision that you’re comfortable with and can reasonably afford.
Childbirth and newborns are already a hefty expense. Be sure that a doula is something that you can afford to include in your pregnancy plan.