What Can a Doula Do for You?

Doula delivery

You are having a baby. You have your obstetrician or midwife and your spouse will be at your side at the delivery. But some mothers-to-be are also opting to have a doula there, too. A doula is anon-medical person who can provide a woman with emotional and physical support before, during, and after childbirth. Doulas also offertraining and assistance with aspects of birth and new motherhood like newborn care and breastfeeding.

Doula means “servant” or “woman’s servant,” and the woman being served is you. A doula is there not to deliver your baby or care for the baby after birth, but to care and offer support to you, the mother. Doulas do not provide medical or nursing care, but are knowledgeable about all aspects of pregnancy and delivery.

A review of over 20 studies comparing birth experience with and without the continuous support that a doula provides concluded that women with support had shorter labors, were more likely to have a vaginal delivery rather than a C-section, were less likely to have anesthesia, were less likely to have a baby with a low Apgar score, and were more likely to be satisfied with their birth experience.

Types of Doulas
According to Dona International, an organization that certifies doulas, there are two types, birth doulas and postpartum doulas. A birth doula helps ready the mother for her delivery and stays with and nurtures her throughout her labor. She provides emotional support, helps make her as comfortable as possible, and facilitates communication between the mother, her partner, and her obstetrician or midwife. She also provides counseling and training in pain-relief techniques and relaxation exercises during labor.

A postpartum doula offers education, support, and companionship in the weeks after the birth. She assists with care of the baby, meal preparation, and light housework, and helps the mother with recovery from birth. She also helps facilitate feeding the baby.

There are also antepartum (before delivery) doulas who help women who have been put on bed rest during their pregnancies.

Dona International certifies both birth and postpartum doulas, but certification is not required to call yourself a doula.

What is the Fee for a Doula Delivery?
Some, but not all, health insurance companies will reimburse for some or all of the services of a doula. The only state where Medicaid covers a doula’s services is Oregon.

The fee for a doula varies depending on where you live, but can range from to with an average of This covers a prenatal visit, labor and delivery, and a follow-up, unless postpartum care is required.

Where Do You Find a Doula?
There are several sites on the web where you can find the name of a doula in your area. Dona International providesa listof doulas based on where you live. Enter your location in the search box on the upper left hand-side of the homepage(www.dona.org). It covers many countries around the world and every state in the US.

You can also find the names of doulas in your area by asking your friends or your obstetrician or midwife.

If you are looking for a doula, start your search around the sixth or seventh month of your pregnancy. Collect some names and make some phone calls. You are looking for someone knowledgeable and calm who will understand what you want during your delivery.  Since anyone can call themselves a doula, it is important to ask your prospective doula about her training, experience, and credentials and about her availability around your due date.

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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