Pregnant woman high-fiving her doula.

Everything You Need to Know About Doulas

Childbirth can be exciting and transformative, but it can also be overwhelming and challenging. Regardless of if it’s your first baby or your third, each delivery is different. Luckily, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or facing some hurdles, a doula can help. To better understand what a doula is, the benefits of working with one, and how to find a professional near you, we cover everything you need to know about doulas.


What is a Doula?

A doula is a trained professional who provides a comprehensive range of support to a woman and her partner during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. This can include emotional support, physical support, and even informational support. Doulas are professional pregnancy experts who are there for expecting mothers throughout their entire journey. Doulas do not supply any actual medical care or advice. However, they work alongside your doctor and OB/GYN to ensure that your needs are met and you’re getting the proper care you need.

There are several distinct types of doulas that you can work with. Some of them include:

  • Fertility Doula — a fertility doula is trained and educated on providing support for women who are struggling to conceive.


  • Birth Doula — a birth doula is a professional who is trained to provide comprehensive support for women throughout the entire childbirth process, from pregnancy and labor into the postpartum period.


  • Postpartum Doula — a postpartum doula is someone who specializes in providing support to mothers during a three-month postpartum period following delivery.


  • Full Spectrum Doula — this type of doula is trained to provide emotional, physical, and informational support to women throughout the entire course of pregnancy. This could include the pregnancy period, childbirth, and postpartum. Full spectrum doulas are also well versed at providing the necessary support for women who experience an abortion, miscarriage, or plan to put their child up for adoption.


There are also doulas who specialize in miscarriage, abortion, and adoption independently.


What Does a Doula Do?

Doulas provide a variety of services based on an expecting mother’s needs. Their goal is to support you during your pregnancy journey in any way possible, so they’re educated and experienced in several sides of childbirth. Some specific things a doula may help with include:


Prenatal Support

Doulas may help you and your partner prepare for birth by discussing birth options, creating a birth plan, and answering questions about pregnancy and childbirth. Although they can offer professional support and evidence-based information, all medical questions or concerns should still be discussed with your doctor.


Labor Support

During labor, doulas can provide emotional and physical support, which may include things like massages, breathing techniques, and positioning suggestions. Doulas can also help your partner support you by providing suggestions for ways they can be involved.



Doulas can act as your advocate to help ensure that your needs and preferences are being respected and met during childbirth. This may include communicating about potential variations to the birthing plan with your doctor. However, if you or your baby’s health or safety is at risk, straying from your birthing plan may be the best option.


Postpartum Support

After the baby is born, doulas can help you with breastfeeding, offer emotional support, and provide guidance on newborn care. If you’re still struggling with breastfeeding, consider working with a lactation consultant.

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Informational Support

Doulas can provide you with evidence-based information on assorted topics related to pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. This makes it easier for you to make informed decisions about your care.


Overall, doulas strive to provide you and your partner with non-judgmental and compassionate support. Their goal is to help empower you to have the most positive birthing experience possible.


How Are Doulas Different from Midwives?

Doulas and midwives can both be key members of your birth team, but they perform distinct roles and have different levels of training and ability.

A midwife is a healthcare professional who’s trained and licensed to provide medical care to women throughout their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum period. Midwives can perform prenatal exams, monitor fetal heart rate, and administer medication during labor. Midwives can attend births in hospitals, birth centers, or at home.

A doula, on the other hand, is not a healthcare professional and should not provide medical care or advice. Doulas are trained to provide support and be your advocate, but they do not make medical decisions, nor are they trained in medical procedures. A doula cannot replace a midwife or doctor, but rather act as a supplemental team member to improve your overall experience.


Benefits of Having a Doula

Although they can’t provide direct medical care, there are still benefits of having a doula. Several studies have shown that having a doula can provide the following benefits to you and your partner.

  • Reduced Risk of Interventions — Women who have a doula are less likely to need interventions such as epidurals, c-sections, and forceps or vacuum-assisted births.


  • Shorter Labors — Studies have shown that women who have a doula have shorter labors on average.


  • Improved Breastfeeding — Women who have a doula are more likely to start breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding for a longer period. Women can also work with a lactation consultant immediately following birth to improve breastfeeding results.


  • Increased Satisfaction with Birth Experience — Women who have a doula report higher levels of satisfaction with their birth experience.


  • Reduced Risk of Postpartum Depression — Studies have shown that women who have a doula are less likely to experience postpartum depression.


  • Stronger Partner Involvement — Doulas can help your partner feel more involved and confident in supporting you during childbirth.


In general, having a doula can help you feel more supported and empowered during your pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum. However, hiring a doula is a personal decision and if you choose to forego one, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have a negative experience.


How Much Does a Doula Cost?

The cost of a doula can vary depending on a number of factors, such as experience, training, and location. According to a survey by DONA International, one of the largest doula organizations in the world, the average cost of a doula in the United States is around $800 to $1,200, although some doulas may charge more or less.

It's worth noting that many doulas offer sliding scale fees or payment plans to make their services more affordable to a wider range of families. Some insurance plans may also cover some or all the cost of a doula, so it's worth checking with your provider to see if this is a possibility.

Ultimately, the cost of a doula may be worth it for families who want to have a specific birth experience and benefit from the added support that doulas provide.


How to Find a Doula

If you decide to work with a doula, it’s important that you find one that you feel comfortable with. You should begin the process by thinking about what qualities or experience level you want from a doula. For example, do you prefer a doula with extensive training and experience, or are you willing to work with a newer doula who may have lower fees? Would you like a doula who specializes in a certain type of birth, such as home birth or water birth? Do you have any specific cultural or language preferences?

Next, ask your friends, family members, or OB/GYN for recommendations. You can also search the database of highly qualified, professional doulas on DONA International.

Once you have a list of potential doulas, schedule interviews to learn more about their experience, training, and views on pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum care. Ask about their availability, fees, and any added services they may offer. This is also a good opportunity to determine if you feel comfortable and compatible with the doula. Feel free to ask for references and contact them about their experience. Once you find a doula that you’re comfortable with and who fits your needs and birthing mindset, you’re ready to begin the relationship.

Just remember, finding a doula that's right for you is a personal decision, and what works for one person may not work for another. Take your time and trust your instincts during this process.

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