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What is a birth doula? And what do they provide?

Updated: Apr 3


What is a birth doula

What is a birth doula?

A birth doula is a professional support person who specializes in supporting people through pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum. They offer benefits such as a lower risk of medical intervention including cesarean birth, better health outcomes for both mom and baby, improved pain management, and an overall better birth experience.


What a birth doula can do for you


There are three stages of support when working with a birth doula: pregnancy/prenatal support, continuous labor support, and early postpartum support.


So, let’s get into the different stages of support:


Pregnancy/prenatal support:


During pregnancy, your doula will work with you to prepare you for labor and birth. You would typically meet with your doula 2-3 times prenatally to go over:

  • the different options you have about yours and your baby's care during and after birth

  • how you can mentally and physically prepare for labor and birth

  • postpartum planning and useful information on the postpartum period such as postpartum healing, infant feeding, and newborn care

  • different coping techniques for pain management either before you get pain medication or if you are choosing to have an unmedicated birth

    • I find that a lot of people who choose to use pain medication are caught off guard that they have to labor for a while without pain medication. This is because getting pain medication too early in labor can stall labor and effect birth outcomes negatively.


Continuous labor support:


Birth doulas often don’t provide in person labor support until you are in active labor. This prevents them from burning out before the more intense parts of labor begin, which is when you'll need your doula the most.

Once your doula is with you, they may:

  • suggest position changes to help labor progress

  • offer non-medical pain relief techniques

  • support you through any medical procedures you may choose to have (pain medication, continuous fetal monitoring, etc.)

  • encourage you throughout labor

  • help you communicate with your care providers so you can be an active decision maker throughout the birth process

If you have a birth partner other than your doula, such as your significant other or a friend or family member, the doula may offer support to them by helping them support you or taking over for them so they can rest.


After the birth of your baby, a doula will usually stay 1-2 hours more. But if you feel that you no longer need them, they will leave. If you do continue to want their support, they can do things such as:

  • supporting your decisions for newborn care just after birth

  • helping with early bonding (both with you and your partner)

  • helping initiate breastfeeding if that’s your chosen method of infant feeding

  • helping you and your partner get settled in

  • making sure you are all set before leaving you and your family to bond


Postpartum support:


Your birth doula will usually meet with you 1 or 2 times within the first 3 weeks after birth to see how you are adjusting. During these meetings, your doula may:

  • provide you with a home cooked meal

  • talk to you about your birth experience

  • ask you how you are doing with recovery

  • offer other resources that may be helpful during your postpartum journey (lactation consultants, perinatal therapists, support groups, etc.)

If a birth doula seems like something that you could benefit from, I suggest checking Doula Match for local doulas in your area.


If you are local to Rhode Island and south eastern Massachusetts, you can check out my services. Doulas of Rhode Island is also a great resource if you are in or near RI.

I wish you the best in your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey!

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