Having birth support is essential. While many laboring women lean on their partners for help and encouragement, others are increasingly welcoming doulas into their birth space.

What is a doula?

DONA International defines a doula as “trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”

Jessica Gillan of Bellies, Boobs, Babies and Bliss says it’s all about “mothering the mother.”

OK, but what do they do?

Ultimately, doulas are a person of support, guiding your birth along the path you desire; They strive to create your ideal birthing experience, offering insight and options along the way.

Gillan likens her role to that of a wedding planner. Wedding planners are experts in venues, florists, caterers and other vendors. Doulas, in turn, are knowledgeable about the hospitals, the staff, the nurses, birthing practices and ideal laboring positions. “In hiring a doula,” says Gillan, “it’s helping mothers say what’s important to them: What type of vibe do you want for your birth? It’s very individual and very personal.”

How to find the perfect doula?

Is a doula right for you? Like the perfect wedding shoes, doulas are not one size fits all; we each have a unique style. Personality and individual preferences play integral roles when choosing the person best suited to support your birth vision. If you think this support option might be ideal for you, try before you buy. Interview multiple doulas from different practices to find the right fit. Consider these categories when compiling questions:

  • Prenatal/pregnancy support
  • Labor and delivery support
  • Postpartum support

Many doulas will offer one aspect or packages for all of the above. Whether you want just birth support or the whole buffet, think about your specific circumstances:

  • What postpartum support do you have?
  • What laboring and birth support do you have?
  • Who do you want as part of your birth team or “in the room”?
  • What is your budget?
  • How long is your partner’s parental leave (if any)?

When your water breaks and what labor will be like is unknown. For some, induction and cesareans may be necessary. Not knowing how your body will react to inductions drugs (like cervidil) or anesthesia medications (like epidurals) will impact recovery time. Bottom line, recovery time is different for each person.

As you interview and search for an ideal doula, consider asking questions and inquiring about the following topics:

  • How long have you been on the role?
  • What training and certifications do you have?
  • How many births have you attended?
  • What is your rate?
  • Do you accept any insurance?
  • Do you have a specialized area of expertise (homebirth, C-section, high-risk pregnancy, etc.)?
  • Have you attended a homebirth?
  • Have you attended a birth that ended in a C-section?
  • What is the back-up plan should you be unavailable or assisting with another delivery? Can I have a meeting with your backup?
  • Do you have any additional credentials or areas of knowledge?
  • Do you have a preferred birth center or hospital?
  • Do you offer postpartum care? Is that an additional fee? What packages do you offer?
  • How do you approach birth?
  • What tactics do you use to keep a birth plan on track? Inquire about specific examples of calming methods, techniques, and positions to encourage labor.
  • How do you interact with the doctors/nurses/midwife on my birth team? And my partner?
  • Do you have experience with women on epidurals? How do you support them?
  • How do you help manage pain?

Birth/Labor

  • When do I call you?
  • How long do you stay? Do you have a birth time limit?
  • Where do you meet me — home or birthplace?

There is no wrong way to experience birth. How you welcome your baby into the world is up to you, and the beauty is, you have choices. You can have the birth you want with the support you need.


For more information about doulas check out these sites:

Bellies, Boobs, Babies & Bliss: Jessica Gillan, doula

Dona International: International Leader in Doula Training

Check out the Mama Knows Nada Podcast with Jessica click here.

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