What is a Birth Doula or Labor Doula?

A birth doula is also known as a labor doula, birth companion, birth coach, or non-clinical birth worker. They are a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and just after birth.

They focus on providing evidence-based information so that the mother can make informed decisions about her care.

Let’s have an in-depth look at the roles, responsibilities, and benefits of having a birth doula, so we can understand the significant impact they have on birthing families.

what is a birth doula or labor doula

Role of a Birth Doula During Pregnancy

  • Educates and empowers the woman to make informed decisions about her care
  • Encourages open communication with all medical personnel involved in the birth
  • Offers physical comfort measures
  • Provides emotional support from early labor through delivery and postpartum
  • Advocates for the mother’s preferences as well as her safety
  • Assist in creating a birth plan and discuss goals and concerns surrounding the pregnancy and childbirth

Role of a Birth Doula During Labor and Delivery

  • Remains with the woman throughout labor and delivery
  • Connects the mother to her body’s ability to give birth naturally
  • Offers emotional support and helps maintain an environment of calmness and security that can facilitate a positive birth experience
  • Offers physical techniques like massage, aromatherapy, breathing exercises, and position adjustments to provide comfort during childbirth
  • Encourages the laboring mother to focus on the sensations of labor and delivery
  • Advocates for the mother’s safety, preferences, and informed decisions throughout labor & delivery
  • Helps establish communication between the woman, her partner, family members, and medical personnel
  • Supports all birthing choices made by the family, whether it is medication, a cesarean section, or other interventions

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Role of a Birth Doula After Delivery

  • Helps the new mother to adjust to her postpartum body and facilitates breastfeeding
  • Offers emotional support and guidance as the family transitions into its parenting role
  • Provides practical assistance such as help with meals, shopping, and light housework
  • Help the family process their labor and delivery experience
  • Offers referrals and resources for continued postpartum care

What are the Benefits of Hiring a Birth Doula?

According to the National Institute of Health, “Doula-assisted mothers were four times less likely to have a LBW baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding.” (Source: National Library of Medicine)

Below are the specific emotional, physical, and informational benefits of having a birth doula:

Emotional Benefits of Having a Birth Doula

Having a doula can emotionally benefit the mother, partner and even whole family. The mother can feel more empowered and in control throughout the different stages of pregnancy. Additional emotional benefits of having a doula include (but not limited to):

  • helping reduce stress levels
  • helping improve coping skills during labor
  • helping increase confidence
  • helping the mother feel in control of the whole birthing process
  • continuous support and guidance
  • continuous presence and reassurance
  • providing praise and encouragement
  • helping increase self-esteem
  • provide guidance to the partner and family on how to be be emotionally connected and supportive during pregnancy, especially during labor

Physical Benefits of Having a Birth Doula

The presence of a doula can physically benefit the mother by helping her go through a more comfortable pregnancy. Some of the physical benefits of having a doula include (but not limited to):

  • providing comfort measures such as massage, movement, positioning, and breathing techniques to help ease labor pains
  • reducing the use of pain medication
  • providing assistance in water therapy with the use of a tub or shower
  • decreasing the length of labor
  • lowering the risk of C-section deliveries
  • encouraging active participation in the birth process

Informational Benefits of Having a Birth Doula

Having a doula can also provide informational benefits to the mother, partner and families. Providing awareness and understanding can help the mother go through the pregnancy, birthing and postpartum stages more positively and confidently.

Some informational benefits of having a doula include (but not limited to):

  • provide accurate information regarding the entire process
  • teach techniques for labor positions and breathing
  • help the mother understand her options thoroughly
  • collect evidence-based research on childbirth-related topics
  • being informed about medical interventions
  • answer questions and concerns that come up during the labor process
  • assist in finding additional resources to help with various needs
  • help the family make informed decisions about birth choices and preferences
  • help the family understand what the mother is going through during the different stages of pregnancy
  • resolve any possible communication barrier between mother and healthcare professionals

A doula will provide various types of support throughout the entire pregnancy and will respect the mother’s wishes, choices, and preferences.

Birth Doula Employment Contract

When a birthing person and her family decides to hire a birth doula, they will sign an employment contract that specifies the services to be provided, fees, and duration of service. It is important for both the doula and the family to review the document carefully before signing it. A clear and thorough contract will help ensure that everyone understands what to expect.

The agreement must specify additional tasks or obligations that may come under their service, along with the clauses pertaining to health safety, confidentiality, and payment. This document can be used for reference in case of any disagreements in the future.

What is Not Performed by a Birth Doula?

It is important to note that doulas cannot:

Video: Having a Doula for Labor

Let’s follow a real birth story and observe how your doula can positively impact your experience!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What should I expect at my first meeting with a doula?

During the first meeting, you will have the chance to get to know each other and discuss your expectations, hopes, and concerns around birth. The doula will also explain their services in more detail as well as provide information on any relevant topics such as comfort measures, pregnancy nutrition, postpartum care, and more.

Depending on the doula’s style and philosophy, you may also discuss birth preferences or create a birth plan. Ultimately, this meeting is an opportunity for you to get to know the doula and decide if they are the right fit for you.

2. How can a doula help with breastfeeding?

Doulas can provide valuable assistance with breastfeeding by helping mothers to feel more confident in their feeding decisions and providing support as they become more familiar with the process. Doulas can help to provide information about breastfeeding techniques, positioning, and latching as well as troubleshoot any potential issues that may arise.

3. How does a doula help with natural birth?

Doulas are a great resource for those seeking to have a natural birth. They can provide emotional support throughout labor and delivery and help mothers to feel confident in their birthing decisions. Additionally, doulas can provide comfort measures such as massage, breathing techniques, or relaxation exercises which can all help to reduce pain during childbirth.

Lastly, doulas can work closely with the mother’s care provider to help ensure that the birthing plan is being followed.

Final Thoughts

Having a birth doula can have a significant positive impact on the birth experience for both the birthing person and their partner. Doulas offer emotional and physical support throughout the entire process of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.

The doula acts as an advocate, providing information and practical guidance to help the birthing person make informed decisions, and supporting the partner and the family as well.

Hiring a doula can lead to a more satisfying birth experience, lower rates of medical intervention, and shorter labor, ultimately resulting in better health outcomes for both the parent and the baby.

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