What is a birth doula? And what do they provide?
What is a birth doula?
A birth doula is a professional support person who specializes in supporting people through pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum. They offer benefits such as a lower risk of medical intervention, better health outcomes for both mom and baby, less need for pain medications, and an overall better birth experience.
What a birth doula can do for you
There are three stages of support when working with a birth doula: pregnancy/prenatal support, continuous labor support, and early postpartum support.
So, let’s get into the different stages of support:
During pregnancy, you will meet with your doula 2 or 3 times for non-medical prenatal meetings that lasts between 1-2 hours. At these meetings, you may go over things like:
how you want your doula to support you (within their scope of practice)
what your options are for labor and birth (medications for pain relief, non-medical pain relief options, birth positions, etc.)
local resources and informative articles/handouts
what to expect at the birth
birth and postpartum planning
Aside from prenatal meetings, your doula may check in on you and let you know that you can contact them for any questions or concerns you may have. Doulas are NOT medical care providers and CANNOT provide any medical advice, but they do have wonderful resources they can provide to you.
Continuous labor support:
Birth doulas often don’t provide in person labor support until you are in active labor. This prevents them from burning out before the more intense parts of labor begin, which is when you'll need your doula the most.
Once your doula is with you, they may:
suggest position changes to help labor progress
offer non-medical pain relief techniques
support you through any medical procedures you may choose to have (pain medication, continuous fetal monitoring, etc.)
encourage you throughout labor
help you communicate with your care providers so you can be an active decision maker throughout the birth process
If you have a birth partner other than your doula, such as your significant other or a friend or family member, the doula may offer support to them by helping them support you or taking over for them so they can rest.
After the birth of your baby, a doula will usually stay 1-2 hours more. But if you feel that you no longer need them, they will leave. If you do continue to want their support, they can do things such as:
supporting your decisions for newborn care just after birth
helping initiate breastfeeding if that’s your chosen method of infant feeding
helping with early bonding (both with you and your partner)
helping you and your partner get settled in
making sure you are all set before leaving you and your family to bond
Your birth doula will usually meet with you 1 or 2 times within the first 3 weeks after birth to see how you are adjusting. During these meetings, your doula may:
provide you with a home cooked meal
talk to you about your birth experience
ask you how you are doing with recovery
offer other resources that may be helpful during your postpartum journey (lactation consultants, perinatal therapists, support groups, etc.)
If a birth doula seems like something that you could benefit from, I suggest checking Doula Match for local doulas in your area.
You can also check out my website. I am a birth doula in the central Massachusetts, northern Rhode Island area.
I wish you the best in your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey!