What Is A Doula, And Should I Have One?

Peri-Natal Psychiatry
Baby Under Blanket on Mom's ChestPhoto attribution: "Mom + baby" by Benjamin Chan (Flickr)

What is a doula and should I have one for my delivery?

A doula’s main role is to assist women in the labor room, however increasingly they are providing support throughout pregnancy to help ease fears, encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and provide guidance if or when things get tough. Despite the clear benefits to having a doula, many women remain puzzled and often ask me ‘what is a doula?’

Doulas are empowering, calming and are a source of encouragement and positivity. Such a presence by your side can often help defray the sense of sterility that can occur in standard hospital deliveries. They also help the dad-to-be remain calm, may show him how to minimize mom’s pain during labor, and can be a source of information when other medical professionals are not available.

Cochrane Reviews from 2012 and 2013 found among 15000 women, that those who used a doula required less pain medication, had fewer caesarian sections, shorter labors, and improved satisfaction with the birth experience as compared to women without extra support in the delivery room. In fact, a separate study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that doula support during labor led to a 40% reduction in caesarian section rates as compared to conventional deliveries.

Why don’t all women hire a doula given the benefit?

The cost for such care can be prohibitively high. A doula’s support can run from $2000 or more, depending on where you live, and the doula’s experience, among other factors. To deflect some costs, you may try submitting to your insurance for reimbursement. Some, but not all insurances, will cover at least some of the fees incurred by a doula if an OBGYN has written a prescription for such support. Many women are also unaware of the option of having a doula in the labor room, and do not know where to find a reputable doula. See below for some links to help you get started finding your doula.

Doula support may be of great value before, during and after delivery.

Be sure that your doula has an up to date certificate from one of these reputable groups: Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association, Pro Doula, DONA International, or International Childbirth Education Association. All of these sites have links to accredited doulas across the United States. Alternatively, to find a doula, you may ask your OBGYN for a recommendation, or look on my site under Resources, Mommies-to-Be.


Until next time, be well and take care of yourself.

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