What Is A Doula?
Trained Perinatal Professionals To Support You During Childbirth
In speaking with close friends about their childbirth experiences, I’ve discovered there is a shared desire amongst pregnant people to feel in control and connected to one’s body during pregnancy and labor. Unfortunately, not everyone feels empowered while giving birth.
A doula can help with this. As certified professionals, they can be there to help guide and support both you and your partner on an emotional level. In short, a doula can act as a beacon of light, helping you through each stage of pregnancy and labor.
So What Exactly Is A Doula?
A doula is a labor companion of any gender who supports a pregnant person (and potentially their partner) non-medically throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. They are especially known for offering emotional and mental support during labor.
Doulas are different from midwives in that they do not have advanced medical training or licensure—rather, they have a rigorous certification for pregnancy support. Both DONA International and Birth Arts International offer extended training for birth doulas and postpartum doulas.
Doulas have been around for centuries but re-emerged in the 1960s during the natural birth movement. In 1971, Ina May Gaskin (the “Mother of Authentic Midwifery”), along with friends and colleagues, opened The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee. The center became renowned and recognized all over the world for its unique approach to childbirth. Today, this space remains an educational hub for birth attendants, such as doulas and midwives, and people travel from all over to give birth there.
A Doula’s Process
Finding a doula can take time and research, so it’s best to begin your search early on in your pregnancy. In the United States, doulas charge based on their experience and location. The cost can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the doula’s experience, offerings, and certifications. Some people decide to hire a doula specifically for prenatal care, while others may want a doula for support during the postpartum months.
If you’re in the US, depending on the state you live in, some insurance does cover the cost of doulas. This article from The Washington Post dives into the insurance industry and how it's changing for holistic birth care. Also, some hospitals offer volunteer doula care for those who either don’t have insurance or who cannot afford it. The website Radical Doula is a nonprofit helping low-income families find doula services near them.
A doula’s job is very personal and involved, and they typically come to their client’s home for prenatal visits throughout the nine months, discuss doctor's appointments, and any concerns the parents may have. When the time comes, they are also there for labor support.
“My doula timed my contractions, gave me massages, and told me how to position my body when contractions were coming,” one of my friends tells me. “She slept over and watched me all night and made food and smoothies. We even went for a long walk/hike to try and get my contractions to come on naturally (totally worked), which was part of my birth plan that she supported and empowered me through.”
After a baby is born, doulas will typically remain with their clients for a few hours to help with breastfeeding and emotional bonding. They will then do a postpartum visit a couple of weeks later to check in with the parents and see how they are adjusting to life with their baby. They may offer nutrition information, supplement advice, or even a home-cooked meal.
And some people decide to hire their doula for postpartum support, too. A postpartum doula will help the new parents process the birth, teach newborn care, and assist in recovery. They will work with the family to ensure everyone feels taken care of and emotionally supported during those first months.
Pregnancy and childbirth are empowering, and we can feel informed and connected with our bodies during this time. And having the support of a doula for my first pregnancy has been the most important part of my journey so far. My doula is a companion outside of my doctor's office, and she’s helped me feel both secure and supported.
Whether you are a new parent, thinking about having children someday, or are currently pregnant and want additional support, consider seeking out a local doula who can offer a helping hand as the journey of childbirth unfolds.
Courtney Jay is a writer at The Good Trade. She is also a yoga instructor, health enthusiast, and sustainable fashion advocate. She believes the most powerful way to nurture the planet is to nurture ourselves. You can find more of her writing and take one of her online yoga classes on her website Coincide.