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What is a Doula?

Answers to your Questions


What is a doula?

The word "doula" comes from ancient Greek, meaning "a woman who serves." Today, "doula" refers to a professional trained to provide emotional, physical and informational support to women throughout their pregnancy, birth and the early postpartum period.
Doulas can assist women with births at home, in the hospital or at a birth center, and they provide pain management techniques, reassurance and advocacy in the labor room.

How do doulas differ from midwives?

A midwife is a medical professional who can provide the same type of care as an obstetrician in the course of a low-risk pregnancy and labor. During labor and delivery, medical care is still in the hands of the midwife or doctor, and the doula becomes an addition to the birth team rather than a replacement.

What do doulas not do?

Doulas are not medical providers.

  • They do not perform clinical tasks such as vaginal exams or fetal heart monitoring

  • They do not give medical advice or diagnose conditions

  • They do not make decisions for the client (medical or otherwise)

  • They do not pressure the birthing person into certain choices just because that is what they prefer

  • They do not take over the role of the partner

  • They do not catch the baby

Why should I hire a doula?

A doula clarifies the labor stages and guides you in communication with your medical team of doctors, nurses, or midwives. She fosters tranquility and is trained to support you during labor with soothing techniques to ease discomfort and promote safe progress. As labor draws near, a doula coaches expectant birthing families on comfort and relaxation techniques, offers nurturing emotional support, provides information on labor and the birth, and offers information about options and medical procedures available during labor. While other staff on your medical team may need to tend to other patients, a doula never leaves your side.

What are some benefits of having a doula?

Data in the renowned book Mothering the Mother, by Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus, provide food for thought for a single mom or couple and/or care providers who may be uncertain about the advantages of having a labor support doula. They boast that doula assisted births result in:

  • 25% decrease in the length of labor

  • 50% fewer Caesarean sections

  • 40% decrease in use of forceps

  • 40% decrease in use of pitocin/syntocinon (synthetic oxytocin)

  • 60% decrease in use of epidurals

  • 30% decrease in use of pain medication

Additionally, they summarize that long-term benefits of labor support during birth include:

  • Improved breastfeeding

  • Decreased postpartum depression

  • Greater maternal satisfaction

  • Better mother-infant interaction

  • Secure, well-bonded children

In 2012, Hodnett et al. published a Cochrane review on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth. They pooled the results of 22 separate trials involving 15,288 women and concluded that if a laboring mother was continuously supported during childbirth by someone outside of her social network and not a member of the hospital staff, she was:

  • More likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth

  • Less likely to use medication

  • Less likely to endure an instrumental birth

  • Less likely to have a Caesarean section

  • Less likely to report dissatisfaction with her birth experience

The authors of the study plainly state that, “all women should have support throughout labor and birth.” 

Click here to read more evidence based research on doulas.

How early should I hire a doula?

It is never too early to hire a doula, and the ideal time to hire one is 5-6 months before your estimated due date. Experienced doulas book early and quickly; repeat birthing families often book their doula on the day their pregnancy is confirmed!

Will a doula “labor sit” me at home or meet me at the hospital?

Your doula will "labor sit" with you by telephone during early labor until she joins you in your home or at the hospital. It is your preference whether she joins you at home or the hospital once labor is established. For scheduled hospital procedures, like an induction or a scheduled C-section, your doula will meet you at the hospital by the agreed upon time whether night or day.

Can I benefit from a doula if I am considering a pain medication?

Yes. A doula is beneficial in assisting with planned medicated or un-medicated births. Some expectant mothers prefer no pain medications, others want to begin with no medications, but reserve the right to change that decision. Others choose a planned medicated birth. A doula offers information on all procedures, including pain medications and potential side effects, and interventions. She will discuss options with you and your partner and facilitate a dialogue between you, your partner, and hospital staff. She will translate medical terms and proposed procedures. Your doula’s goal is to advise, support, and champion your decisions. She appreciates that birth preferences may change. The choice to use pain medication or not is up to you.

If I have a C-section, can I still benefit from having a doula?

Yes. Even in a surgical setting, a doula is there to explain what is happening and guide you though the procedure. She is also there during recovery to help with the first breastfeeding and bonding. With the permission of your doctor and anesthesiologist, your doula may accompany you into the operating room, unless it is an extreme emergency requiring general anesthesia.

How does a doula interact with my partner and family during birth?

The presence of a doula at your birth complements and strengthens a partner's role. During pre-natal visits, your doula discusses your partner’s comfort level with participation during labor and collaborates with your partner to best support you. Studies show that partners participate more actively during labor when a doula is present. Your partner and your family bring a loving emotional connection and an intimate knowledge of you that your doula does not have. In combination with your doula's professional expertise, the team creates the very best support system.

Are doulas welcome in hospitals and medical settings?

Yes. It is the doula’s goal to establish good working relationships with the doctors, midwives and medical staff of her expectant families. Communication, respect, professionalism, and trust create a supportive birthing team.

What happens if the baby comes early or late?

Once you retain your doula, she is committed to serving you whether your baby is born before or after the estimated due date.

Why should I take childbirth education and other preparation if I hire a doula?

The most satisfying birth experiences happen when you, your partner, and your family are physically, emotionally and mindfully prepared for each birthing stage: prenatal, labor and postpartum.

Will my health insurance pay for or reimburse me for birth doula services?

In Texas, some insurance companies will reimburse for doula services as ‘out of network’ care services.

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