on Pregnancy & Doulas

Birth Doula Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a birth doula?
    • A birth doula provides emotional and physical support, along with resources and birth preparation to an expecting family prenatally, during birth and shortly after.


  • What does a birth doula do?
    • Birth doulas meet with you prenatally, offers support throughout your labor and birth, and is there for you as you transition into your postpartum chapter. Some things that are included in doula work: prenatal visits, telephone/email support, on-call availability, continuity of care, assistance and support during labor and birth, assistance with optimal fetal positioning (which can be discussed prenatally and utilized during the birth process), aromatherapy, massage, photography, breastfeeding support, resources and much more.


  • What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
    • A doula is a non-medical support person who focuses on caring for you emotionally and physically, and helps you to feel informed and empowered. While they often have similar approaches, a midwife differs from a doula in a very large way. A midwife is a *medical* professional, meaning that the primary focus of their care is on the health and safety of you and your baby. Both doulas and midwives work with you prenatally, support you throughout the birth and follow up with you postpartum. Specifically, at a birth, doulas are often found doing hip squeezes, refilling your water bottle, providing guidance and reassurance (to you and your partner), and repeating affirmations that empower you. At a birth, midwives may be found doing similar things to a doula, but their top priorities include: ensuring that you and baby's vital signs are stable, assessing you and your baby, completing cervical exams when needed, administering medication if necessary, and catching the baby you are birthing.

      Doulas and midwives go together like peanut butter and jelly!


  • What kinds of birth do birth doulas support?
    • Whether you want to give birth at home or by scheduled cesarean, birth doulas support ALL kinds of birth. A lot of people imagine doulas supporting home births or think doulas are only for the "crunchy" families. While that may be a stereotype for doulas, a large majority of doulas can be found in hospitals and birth centers. Some doulas have "specialties" or certain styles that they bring to the table, meaning that they might be a better fit for a certain idea you have for your birth. Experience and additional training do come into play here. Doulas support any and all birth, from midwife-supported home births to birth center births to unmedicated hospital births to scheduled cesarean births.


  • When should I hire a birth doula?
    • The earlier the better really. Typically, the beginning of your third trimester is a good time to have your doula secured by. We often recommend that you start your search in your second trimester, talk to and interview a couple of doulas, and really determine who is the best fit for you. You deserve someone you feel an easy connection with and someone who you feel fits your personality and needs.

      *If you consider yourself a planner or someone who experiences anxiety more often, hiring a doula earlier in your pregnancy might be more beneficial. This allows you to really form that trusting relationship and feel unconditionally supported as you navigate the emotional and mental ups and downs.


  • How does a birth doula work with my partner?
    • A common question we get is, "Will my partner feel left out?" Honestly, this is a very valid question. Many think that a doula takes the role of the partner when, in fact, our role supports them as well. We firmly believe that our role as your doula is to amplify support, and that goes for your partner too. We have worked with many different birthing partners, yet they all have one thing in common: Your partner knows you better than anyone else. Even if they aren't sure how to support you in labor/birth, they know your fears, preferences and desires. We work with your partner by encouraging them, offering guidance and suggestions when needed, reminding them to also stay hydrated and to take bathroom breaks, and more. If your partner has witnessed birth before, they still deserve support and the comfort in knowing they are supported as well.


  • Will a doula be useful if I need medication or if I have a cesarean?
    • Absolutely! Like mentioned in an earlier question, doulas support all types of birth. While you may not request much physical support, there are emotional and informational ways your doula can support you.
    • A doula can benefit you and your partner if:
      • You would like pain medication early on in your labor (or perhaps in the parking lot)
      • You plan to use nitrous oxide, an IV narcotic or an epidural
      • You have a cesarean birth, whether it is unplanned or scheduled
    • A doula can help you find a rhythm and stay informed, and can ensure that you are cared for emotionally and mentally. Some pain medications take the edge off (like nitrous oxide), while others may be more effective with taking the sharpness away (like an epidural). Sometimes there is still a need for other coping techniques, such as counterpressure, that we may need to utilize. Having a doula can provide you with reassurance that you have more tools at your fingertips. Perhaps you feel you are coping well with the discomfort of labor-- wonderful! A doula can ensure that you and your partner's emotions are supported and that you continue to receive any information you would like. The physical support piece does not fully go away too; you and your doula still have things like massage or positioning as options. At cesarean births, whether they are planned or not, doulas are useful to help with cesarean birth preparedness, balancing emotions and thoughts, and keeping you informed of the options you still have in the operating room.


  • How do I find the right doula for me?
    • You deserve the best! Each doula is unique and there are a few things that come into play.
    • Trust your gut. Does the doula's personality and style fit you and your partner? Do you vibe well with the doula? If a doula rubs you the wrong way, uses certain verbiage or language you don't like, puts off a vibe that doesn't sit well with you, or even has the same name as a crazy ex whose name alone drives you crazy, they may not be the doula for you. Honestly, even the simplest thing that you try to ignore can amplify either over time or on your "birth day."
    • Determine what it is that you're looking for. Do you have certain preferences or wishes when it comes to pregnancy and birth? Are you planning on using a certain birthing method or other tools? Finding a doula who can unconditionally support you and who may have experience with the things you are planning for can make all the difference. Doulas often acquire additional training and certifications to provide you with a more well-balanced, well-rounded approach to doula support. What additional knowledge would you want your doula to have (ie. acupressure, aromatherapy, belly casting, childbirth/lactation education, massage, optimal fetal positioning, photography, placenta encapsulation, etc.)?
    • Interview more than one doula. As doulas, we know how important it is for a client-doula relationship to feel connected and trusting. That is why we believe that by researching and considering more than one doula, you will open doors to the choices you have. 
    • When the connection feels right, go for it. After the logistics like availability and pricing, more forward if you feel ready to add this person to your birth team.
    • Tip: If you connect well with more than one doula, consider hiring one as primary and asking the other doula to be the back up doula in the unlikely event that your primary doula is unable to attend your birth. A certified, professional doula is taught to acquire a back up doula. Ask if your hired doula works with specific back up doulas or is open to suggestions/guidance from you.