Birth Doulas

How is a birth doula different from a midwife?

While some skills of doulas and midwives overlap, they are different professions.  A midwife is a medical professional responsible for the healthcare of mother and baby.  She is acutely trained to observe the course of natural labor and to recognize and treat problems should they arise.  

A doula’s specialty is the physical and emotional care of the laboring family.  The doula offers comfort measures to mom in labor, but also makes sure the partner feels supported and nurtured.  

A mother-friendly care provider (doctor or midwife) and a doula can be a great team that helps the laboring family to achieve the birth they desire.

What are the benefits of hiring a birth doula?

Studies show a doula’s presence and service can reduce interventions (cesarean section, epidural, labor induction, etc.) and increase the rates of successful breastfeeding and maternal satisfaction.*  So whether planning for an unmedicated birth, a medicated birth, or even a C-section or VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), all couples can benefit from a doula’s care.

For more detailed information we suggest you read "The Evidence for Doulas" from Evidence Based Birth.  

What services does a birth doula typically offer?

  • one free consultation 
  • one to two prenatal meetings  
  • assistance in developing a birth plan
  • telephone and email contact throughout pregnancy
  • continuous support through labor, birth and the early postpartum period
  • one postpartum meeting in the birthing family’s home
  • telephone contact postpartum for questions and problems

Please consult each individual doula’s list of services; some offer specialized services including childbirth education, photography, birth art, massage, placenta encapsulation and others.

What does it typically cost to hire a birth doula?

Fees range from about $400-800, depending on services and expertise.  Many doulas provide payment plans when cost is an issue.    

What do birth doulas do?

While each doula may offer unique services, basic ones typically include: accompanying a family in labor, providing emotional and physical support, suggesting comfort measures, and providing support and gentle suggestions for the partner.  The doula can run out for snacks and drinks for the birth team or take a few photographs of treasured labor moments.  She can dim the lights, turn on music, or massage mom’s feet.  A doula’s words are carefully chosen to encourage mom’s progress and to overcome any negativity or fear in mom or others present at the birth.  She can help with the baby’s first feeding or if mom and baby have to be separated after birth, attend to mom allowing the partner to stay with the baby.  If a cesarean section becomes necessary, the doula can continue to support the parents in the operating room and in recovery.  

A birth doula does not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, fetal heart tone checks, vaginal examinations, or postpartum clinical care.  The doula advocates for the client's wishes as expressed in her birth plan and in prenatal conversations by encouraging her client to ask questions of her caregiver and to express her preferences and concerns.  The doula helps the mother incorporate changes in plans if and when the need arises, and enhances the communication between client and caregiver.  The advocacy role does not include the doula speaking instead of the client or making decisions for the client.  A doula’s primary goal is to help the laboring couple have their safest and most satisfying birth.

While all DNFW doulas are individual practitioners, each one has signed and agreed to follow the DNFW Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice

What is the process involved in hiring a birth doula?

Choose and contact any doula you wish to interview.  To check availability with your selected doulas, make sure to provide your estimated due date in the initial contact.    

The DNFW also offers quarterly Meet the Doulas events.

What if my doctor/midwife says I don’t need a birth doula or can’t have a birth doula?

Doulas are hired directly by birthing families and work solely for them.  Care providers and hospitals cannot dictate who accompanies you during labor and birth.  However, occasionally there is resistance shown toward the presence of a doula.  A doctor or midwife may have encountered a doula that did not abide by the Standards of Practice, or one who pushed a personal agenda.  We strongly recommend early and candid conversations about the presence of a doula to avoid last minute awkwardness or frustration.

Separately, some care providers actually offer continuous support during labor.  And that is great!  But that doesn't negate the benefits of doula dedicated to this task.  Indeed, we've never heard a postpartum mother say, "That was nice, but I felt a little too encouraged and supported."  So even when the provider is an intimate part of the birth team, if the family wants a doula, the family should have a doula.    

In the end, try to determine your care provider’s apprehension to the presence of a doula.  Sometimes, a doula may attend a prenatal appointment to meet the care provider, which may help ease or eliminate any potential tension.  

My partner doesn't want a doula, or is afraid the doula will take his place.  Is that true?

While we can't speak to all the reasons a partner might not desire a doula, the fear of being re-placed is definitely, well, mis-placed.  Have your partner read this article, "Five Reasons Dads Should Demand A Doula."

Do I need a birth doula for a home birth?

Although a home birth midwife has an important medical and supportive role to play, a doula may still successfully and meaningfully serve a family planning a home birth.  We recommend you have a candid conversation with your home birth midwife about her role and how it may differ from the role of a doula as well as talking to any doulas you may interview about how they have incorporated themselves into a home birth experience successfully.   And as stated above, even when a provider is an intimate part of the birth team, if the family wants a doula, the family should have a doula!    

Do I need a birth doula if I'm planning on using pain medication or an epidural?

Although many people desiring an unmedicated birth seek out doula care, many others plan from the start to use pain medication or to get an epidural.  Doulas offer a wide range of support and their presence can still be of value to both the laboring mother and her partner when pain medications or epidurals are used.  Here is a brief article explaining many ways a doula can be an important member of a birth team when a family is planning on using pain medication or an epidural.

Do I need a birth doula if I'm planning on having a cesarean delivery?

Again, many doula clients do hire doulas to help them optimize their chances of having a vaginal birth, but doulas are sometimes hired for support before, during, and after cesarean births - even those planned far in advance.  This brief article describes many ways a doula can offer support at a cesarean birth.

What if I'm interested in becoming a doula?

The DNFW offers twice-yearly “So You Want to Be a Doula?" events where anyone interested in pursuing training and working as a doula can meet casually with experienced doulas to learn more about the joys and demands of this calling.  Typically they are held every spring and fall are are announced on both our Facebook page and website.  This is a great way to get to know local doulas, get questions answered about becoming or being a doula, and get information about joining the DNFW!

Regarding paths to becoming a doula, all DNFW members started out training with one of the doula training/certification organizations.  The DNFW is not a training organization itself but there are many nationally and program details vary among them.  A good list to research the differences between them can be found here.  Some offer in-person workshops while with others the material is strictly online and self-paced. Going through a doula training program is a good first step as you commit to becoming a doula, then so much more can be picked up with experience, networking with other birth professionals, and continuing education.


Postpartum Doulas

What are the benefits of hiring a postpartum doula?

In an age where many people live far from immediate family and new grandparents often work full time, there is a need for postpartum care.  New families can find that in a professional postpartum doula.

Studies indicate that new mothers have much better success with breastfeeding and have decreased incidence of postpartum mood disorders when they receive support at home during the first few weeks after giving birth.

What services does a postpartum doula typically offer?

  • breastfeeding support and education
  • newborn care instruction
  • access to needed resources in community
  • light housekeeping
  • meal preparation
  • help with sibling adjustment
  • coordination of help from friends and family 
  • mothering and nurturing the mother
  • empathetic listener
  • relief from feeling alone
  • allows for more quality, stress-free time with baby
  • aids in transition to new parenthood
  • allows more time for mother to rest and heal

What does it typically cost to hire a postpartum doula?

Unlike birth doulas, postpartum doulas typically charge an hourly rate.  Contact the postpartum doulas for specifics.

What is the process involved in hiring a postpartum doula?

Choose and contact any doula you wish to interview.  To check availability with your selected doulas, make sure to provide your estimated due date in the initial contact.    

The DNFW also offers quarterly Meet the Doulas events.

What if I'm interested in becoming a doula?

The DNFW offers twice-yearly “So You Want to Be a Doula?" events where anyone interested in pursuing training and working as a doula can meet casually with experienced doulas to learn more about the joys and demands of this calling.  Typically they are held every spring and fall are are announced on both our Facebook page and website.  This is a great way to get to know local doulas, get questions answered about becoming or being a doula, and get information about joining the DNFW!

Regarding paths to becoming a doula, all DNFW members started out training with one of the doula training/certification organizations.  The DNFW is not a training organization itself but there are many nationally and program details vary among them.  A good list to research the differences between them can be found here.  Some offer in-person workshops while with others the material is strictly online and self-paced. Going through a doula training program is a good first step as you commit to becoming a doula, then so much more can be picked up with experience, networking with other birth professionals, and continuing education.