What is a Doula?

Doulas are trained to provide emotional and physical support before, during and after labour.

[Read more: Early Signs of Labour]

 A little extra support…goes a long way! Here are points to consider to help you decide if hiring a doula is right for you.

What Exactly Does a Doula Do?

Birth doulas are sometimes called ‘labour coaches,’ but they are so much more than that. They are trained to support mums during labour, but their work often starts weeks or months before. That is because they can help you think through your birth plan. On the big day, one of their top responsibilities is to help you meet the goals laid out in your plan and be supportive and encouraging if your plan needs to change.

Unlike doctors and midwives, who will attend to all the important medical aspects of birth, doulas cannot make medical decisions for you. Pregnant women hire a birth doula for their general support. 

Sachiko T., for example, hired a doula for extra help: ‘My husband has an aversion to blood, and I was worried he might pass out. In the event that happened, I needed to make sure someone was there for me.’

Sachiko’s husband Jason did just fine. He stayed standing(!)—and supportive—all the way through to welcoming their new baby girl. But Sachiko was still glad she hired a doula. Mostly, because labour is…long! The doula took turns with Jason putting strong pressure on her back during hours of contractions, which was a great help in easing her pain.

That said, it is a good idea to tell your healthcare provider in advance that you will have a doula attending the birth. You always want a positive relationship between your doula and your healthcare provider—things go the best when everyone is on the same team…’Team You!’

Here is the great news: Studies show that doula-assisted labours tend to be shorter, with fewer complications and lower rates of C-section and other interventions. Women who are assisted by doulas report being happier with their births, even though it is an extra expense that is not typically covered by insurance providers.

Cost aside, some expecting parents hesitate to bring a doula on to their team because they prefer a more intimate experience—they only want close family in the delivery room on this very special day.

Are Doulas Expensive?

The cost of hiring a doula tends to range from around £250 to £2000. It is important to note that some doulas charge by the hour and others by a flat fee, so keep that in mind if you start searching for a doula for yourself. 

The typical expectations and responsibilities of a doula are to be present during prenatal visits, during labour and delivery, and finally for the post-labour visit. Obviously, these costs can add up if you are paying hourly, which is something to take into consideration.

What is the Difference Between a Doula and a Midwife?

Although both a doula and a midwife offer childbirth services, the services they offer are quite different. Midwives have medical training and focus heavily on helping you deliver a healthy baby. Whereas a doula focuses on the mental, physical, and emotional needs of the mother. 

What About Hiring a Postpartum Doula?

Doulas also assist after the baby is born. A postpartum doula can support you at home, by helping you learn to feed, bathe, and soothe the baby and by doing housekeeping and errands. This can really help a first-time mum gain confidence in breastfeeding and caring for their newborn.

For example, a mum named Page really wanted to succeed in breastfeeding, so she sought out a doula who was a trained lactation consultant.

‘I cannot even tell you how great my doula was. In the hospital, the nurses were trying to help me, but every time a new nurse came on shift, I would get different breastfeeding advice. I was totally confused on how to latch, my nipples were sore and I was getting scared I would not be able to do it,’ said Page.

Within two days of working one-on-one with her doula, she gained complete confidence in her ability to breastfeed. The doula also walked the dog and helped her organise her nursery.

Some new mums hire a doula for around-the-clock support for a few weeks, others for just a few hours a day for a few days following the birth. If you decide you want a doula, I suggest wrapping up interviews by the end of your fifth month of pregnancy. You want to have time to form a relationship with your doula…and have your team in place should your little one arrive earlier than planned!

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.