What is a Doula? And Why You Need to Hire One

What is a Doula? | Baby Chick

What is a Doula? And Why You Need to Hire One

Whenever I get asked the question, “what do you do?”, I know that I’m about to enter into a conversation — or potentially a monologue — rather than just giving a quick response. It would be so wonderful if people would understand what I do as quickly as they understood “I am a teacher,” or “a counselor,” or “an accountant.” But when I reply, “I’m a doula,” I begin to prepare myself to give my explanation.

Most people don’t know what a doula is, so it never surprises me when the person I am speaking with looks perplexed and has no idea what I’ve just said. Let me say. I don’t mind explaining because it allows me to share my passion and educate someone on a service that they or a family member or friend might be interested in using. What does surprise me and excite me is when that person I am speaking with DOES know what a doula is. I love hearing their stories about how they heard about doula care, how their friend hired a doula, or how their family member is a doula. Unfortunately, that only happens on rare occasions, so I still find myself educating most people on what a doula actually is and what we do for families. You, our readers, may not know what a doula is. So, today, I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you the answers to some common questions. So let’s start from the very beginning. It’s a perfect place to start. 😉

What is a doula?

The word “doula” — pronounced ‘doo-la’ — is an ancient Greek word meaning ‘woman servant, caregiver, or a woman who serves.’ More recently, it is used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother and her partner during pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and their postpartum journey.

There are two main types of doulas, Birth Doulas, and Postpartum Doulas. Birth Doulas are trained professionals that support women and their partners during pregnancy, childbirth, and immediately postpartum. Postpartum Doulas are trained professionals that support families during their transition into parenthood during the postpartum period (the first 12 weeks after birth).

The role of a doula has also evolved into other areas of life, and there are now more specialties in doula care. There are:

  • Antepartum Doulas support pregnant women who have been placed on bed rest or who are in a high-risk or high-stress pregnancy situations.
  • Bereavement Doulas provide emotional, physical, and informational support to women and families processing the loss of a child.
  • Adoption Doulas build relationships with both the birth mother and the adopting or fostering family. Sometimes it’s just with the birth mother or the adopting or fostering family.

What does a doula do?

Birth Doulas typically offer to meet with each of their clients several times — two, three, or four times — for prenatal visits to go over each couple’s wants and desires, as well as educating them on the options that are and will be available to them. This allows the doula to understand how to best support each family during their labor and birth.

At the birth, Birth Doulas bring an entire toolbox of ideas, tricks, and techniques. Your doula may rub your back for several hours, or trade-off with your partner in that role when his hands are aching, and he needs to eat and rest. She may be the quiet, calm, reassuring voice whispering in your ear, or the firm, anchored voice that will help you get back on track when labor starts to feel intense and overwhelming. She can help you focus on natural ways to help your labor progress (if you want to have an unmedicated birth), or she can help you decide which medications you would want to use and when the best time it is during your labor to get them. Your doula can help straighten out a baby that’s slightly malpositioned in the pelvis, and she can give you ideas on how to negotiate with the staff to achieve some important elements of your birth plan.

Birth Doulas offer a lot of support to the husband or partner, showing him and other loved ones how they can best help you, and reassure them about what’s normal. Your doula might offer a hand massage to help you rest and relax. And she can explain your options and help you brainstorm questions when you’re facing medical interventions for you or your baby. On occasion, doulas’ help and reassurance after the birth might be key to establishing your nursing relationship.

Every labor unfolds in its own unique way. A doula’s job is to bring her expertise in birth to the table and stay fully present and supportive, whatever your family’s needs and desires may be.

birth doula

A Postpartum Doula’s role is so unique to every family. Essentially, she will come into your home, assess your needs, and jump in to help. Your doula’s role is to nurture you as you make the transition into life with your new baby. This could include help with breastfeeding, suggestions, and information about baby care, and resources to help heal your own body postpartum. She is like a teacher, sharing evidence-based information and helping you integrate the baby into your family. She could help take over baby care for a little while so that you can have a shower or a nap. She can also show you how to use several different baby carriers, how to use your breast pump, suggest which diapers/diaper creams/baby detergent/etc., that you might want to try, and more. Postpartum Doulas can also do some light housekeeping, such as washing dishes or wiping down counters and doing baby’s laundry.

baby care

If you have older children, she can spend time playing or working with them to help them adjust to the big sibling role. She can also run errands for you and pick things up if you’re not able to drive yet or haven’t been able to get out of the house. Doulas come in with a keen sense of what new families typically need and then work with you to decide how she can best support you through the transition into parenthood.

What are the benefits of hiring a doula?

Numerous studies have documented the benefits of having a doula present during labor and postpartum. A Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, showed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a Birth Doula was present. With the support of a Birth Doula, women were less likely to have pain-relief medications administered and less likely to have a cesarean birth. Women also reported having a more positive childbirth experience. Here are some of the stats:

  • Decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%
  • Decreases the length of labor by 25%
  • Decreases the use of oxytocin by 40%
  • Reduces the use of pain medication by 30%
  • Decreased requests for an epidural by 60%
  • Reduce the number of days newborns spent in the NICU (neonatal infant care unit)
  • Reduce the rates of postpartum depression
  • Increase the rates of breastfeeding
  • Increase the positive maternal assessments of maternal confidence and newborn health


Studies show that having a Postpartum Doula after childbirth results in:

  • Greater satisfaction with the postpartum period
  • Quicker birth recovery
  • More likely to eat healthier and sleep more
  • More confidence in parenting and childcare
  • Less stress and anxiety
  • A more positive opinion of baby
  • More affectionate to baby
  • Less incidence in postpartum mood disorders
  • Higher breastfeeding success rate

These are awesome results! Who wouldn’t want to improve their chances of having a better overall experience during labor and bringing baby home?

My husband/partner/mom/friend is going to be my support person in labor. Do I still need a Birth Doula?

I know that dads are sometimes nervous that a Birth Doula might take over their role and that they’ll be “shut out” of the labor process. That is not the case at all! Dads and doulas actually complement each other in labor.

A doula is kind of like a tour guide in a foreign country or a coach to a team. Your tour guide doesn’t take away from your trip. She enhances it for both of you. And how are you supposed to win a game if you have never played the game before? (Assuming your husband hasn’t coached you or any other women in labor.) Your coach can help lead you to victory! The same is true of a doula. She can help you both navigate the healthcare system and understand the process of labor and birth.

Doulas often find themselves reassuring dads/partners about the normal sights and sounds of labor, which can be disconcerting to even the best-prepared support person. Doulas show dad’s particular techniques to help the laboring woman, based on exactly what is happening in her body at that moment. Experiencing back labor? “We might try this counter-pressure technique, let me show you exactly where to put your hands.” Relaxing in the bath? “How about gently pouring water over her belly with each contraction, like this.” Is mom laboring in the bathroom? “Here, let me get the birth ball so she can lean forward into your chest to rest between contractions.”


During labor, moms usually retreat into their own private “laborland.” Doulas often find themselves bonding with the dad during the birth as they work together to figure out the best way to support the laboring woman. This is why dads/partners are generally so happy to have another “birth partner” with them for the journey!

As for friends and family members, they can also make wonderful labor support people, but their role is distinctly different than a doula. Doulas bring specialized training in birth and labor support. She has seen many births in various settings, and she can help familiarize you with what to expect at each stage. She doesn’t have the same emotional attachments as your family, so it’s easier for her to separate herself from your choices.

A doula is there to support you in whatever kind of birth you want, whatever that looks like for you. You don’t have to worry about what a doula might say or do in any given situation, as you may with some friends or family members. She’s there for your unconditional support and can support your friends and family, too, just as she supports dads and partners in the birth space.

I’m getting an epidural. Do I still need a doula?

Doulas come to your birth with an open mind and an open heart. She is not there to carry out some agenda; she’s there to help you have the best birth possible, whatever that looks like for you. She’ll talk in-depth during your prenatal meetings to learn more about what kind of birth you envision, and she’ll put all of her energy toward helping you get there. And if you get into labor and for whatever reason plans change, a doula can help you cope with the unexpected turn of events.

There is a lot a doula can do if you opt for pain medication, including position changes and other tricks to help your baby descend. She can also help you cope with the physical side effects of medication, to continue making your journey as comfortable as possible.

I also hate to say it, but sometimes pain medication doesn’t work as expected, but mom’s movements and coping tools are suddenly limited with those medications — a doula will get you through it.


What if I need to have a C-section. Do I still need a doula?

There are so many things a doula can do to help make a cesarean birth the most loving, family-centered experience possible. For example, she can be with you before the surgery, to help with relaxation and assist you in brainstorming questions for your health care team. She can help advocate for some of the things you might want during the surgery. For example, working with surgeons and anesthesiologists to allow skin-to-skin contact on the operating table, while the surgeon is finishing the operation. This is so much more family-centered than taking the baby to the nursery or to the recovery room to wait for you, and we have found that it significantly decreases birth trauma for the mother. But it’s often something that requires some advocacy with the staff—a doula can help with those negotiations.

Doulas are sometimes allowed to stay with you and your partner in the operating room during the surgery. However, this is always a case-by-case decision by your surgeon and anesthesiologist. If a doula is allowed in the OR, she can help explain what is happening during the surgery. She can show your husband or partner some physical comfort measures that may help you deal with the sensations of surgery. Sometimes a baby needs to go to the nursery or the NICU after a cesarean birth. In this situation, the dad or partner generally goes with the baby, and the doula will stay by your side. This helps mothers not to feel so alone as the surgery is finished, and recovery begins, and it helps partners not to feel so torn between mom and baby.

In most cases, though, the baby will go with the mom to a recovery area, where a doula can help you establish nursing and skin-to-skin bonding. And finally, if the cesarean was unexpected, a doula will offer a compassionate, listening ear to help you process the birth. She can also connect you with resources.

I will have help from my family after the baby is born. Do I still need a Postpartum Doula?

Your husband/partner, family members, and friends can offer wonderful support in the days and weeks postpartum! Some of their skills may spill over into the postpartum doula realm, and others are quite different. Postpartum Doulas are great listeners, and they can support you in forming your own parenting philosophies, based on solid research-based information. Postpartum Doulas are an objective source of information and support. They can help both you and your husband or partner adjust to life with this new little person. Many family members and friends have found that with a Postpartum Doula’s help, they are actually more involved in caring for mom and baby. This is because they learn exactly how to be most supportive.

It can also be overwhelming for others to care for a new mom and baby. Postpartum Doulas can help share that nurturing role. For dads and partners, she can help them know how to help and reassure them about what is normal for babies and postpartum mothers. Siblings have a big adjustment too, and a Postpartum Doula can help ease that transition. They can spend time playing and talking about their new role. Also, helping the parents with tips on how to interact and entertain older children during the intense weeks when mom is healing and a newborn needs so much attention.

Postpartum Doulas can also help new families recognize the symptoms of imbalance and connect them with resources for help. They are good listeners so they may lend an empathetic ear to the new mom. Or, help to take care of other household responsibilities while she is focusing on getting well. There is also some evidence that using a Postpartum Doula can help reduce the chance of developing postpartum depression.

infant massage

Overall, a doula believes in ‘mothering the mother.’ She has the experience and training to support women during these different times in their lives to make their experiences during pregnancy, birth, and motherhood the best that it can be.

For more about doulas, listen to our podcast episode HERE

About the Author /

Nina is The Baby Chick® & CEO of Baby Chick®. She is a baby planner, birth doula, postpartum doula, childbirth educator, newborn care specialist, and a mother. With over eight years of experience, she has supported hundreds of families during their pregnancies, births, and postpartum journeys.

First of all, we think all moms are incredible. 💕 Today’s shoutout goes to the career moms. We know the struggles because we are you. May this weekend bring you all rest, peace, and joy. 🥰 Sending out all of the love and respect! 🙇‍♀️
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But, what many moms agree on is that once it’s done, you kinda forget about all the stress that came along with it. Kinda like pregnancy and giving birth —you just sort of forget about it all until you do it all over again.⁠ 🤪⁠
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If someone needs this info tag them ❤️⁠
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“You are my reason.⁠ ⁠ You are the reason I “You are my reason.⁠
You are the reason I get up each morning.⁠
Even though my eyelids are as heavy as a five-ton truck.⁠
Even though all I want is to sleep in, a coffee and breakfast in bed.⁠
You are more important.⁠
You need me.⁠
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For you, I will always love it.⁠
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Even though it's not your fault.⁠
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Even though I get sad when things do not go my way.⁠
Even though I sometimes lose sight of what I have.⁠
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You are the light at the end of every tunnel.⁠
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You are my reason." ❤️ Words by @hangingwiththeheaphys 💕⁠
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📷: @she_plusfive
Your Child's Stomach Pain and Headaches Could Be A Your Child's Stomach Pain and Headaches Could Be Anxiety⁠ 💔
Have you noticed that your child is complaining of stomach pain and headaches? Or perhaps they seem tired and irritable despite getting the correct amount of sleep? Perhaps these things are simply coincidental, but maybe they’re not. Did you know that even children suffer from anxiety disorder? In fact, the most common mental health condition in children is anxiety disorder. If you are sensing that there may be something else going on, keep reading. {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading this mom's personal journey with child anxiety disorder.⁠}⁠
Article by: Katie Gibbons⁠
📷: @lisa.boettcher
Fun Pregnancy Announcement Ideas 😍🤰⁠ .⁠ Fun Pregnancy Announcement Ideas 😍🤰⁠
Few of life’s events can have you bursting at the seams as much as “we’re making a human!” will. Sharing this news with those you love, like, or just tolerate, has become easier and more instantaneous than ever with the advent of social media. These days, most moms-to-be want to share their pregnancy announcement with as many people as possible . . . and the cuter idea the better!⁠
Here are some fun and unique pregnancy announcement ideas for you to share your incredible news. Whether you like to use humor, romance, or a sweet surprise, these ideas are some of the most picture-worthy around!⁠ ⁠{Click 🔗 in bio to see the pregnancy announcement ideas!⁠}⁠
Article by: Rachel MacPherson⁠
📷: @karissakayabbott
Pretty sure my mouth and nose are covered too. 😑😂⁠
📷: @thedecentmother
I am a big advocate for breastfeeding. There are s I am a big advocate for breastfeeding. There are so many AMAZING benefits for the mother and child. But you know what I am an even bigger advocate for? A mother's well-being -- her physical, emotional, and mental health!!⁠
Sometimes we make plans and God laughs. Some of us plan to breastfeed our babies for 3 months, 6 months, a year, 2 years. Some of us meet our goals and some of us don't. (🙋‍♀️ My goal was to reach a year and made it 7 months.) Breastfeeding can be a lot more challenging than many of us expect. There can be complications along the way, the baby could have allergies, and sometimes breastfeeding or pumping can take an immense toll on a mother's mental health.⁠
It is my firm belief that we must care for and support the new mother just as much as we care for and support the new child. 💕 While I feel there is so much value in breast milk, in my opinion, if it compromises the health of the mother, it is not worth it. As long as the baby is being fed, cared for, and loved, that is all that matters. And for the mother to grow and thrive in her new role as a parent to continue caring for her child, she needs to do what she feels is best for herself and her family. Sometimes that is not breastfeeding or pumping.⁠
No matter your feeding experience or preference, you are a good mother. Whether your choice was made by you or made for you, you must do what is right for you and your baby. Your health (mentally, physically, emotionally) matters. ❤️
Being a Stay-At-Home Mom Was Harder For Me Than Be Being a Stay-At-Home Mom Was Harder For Me Than Being a Working Mom⁠ 😬⁠
Being a full-time, stay-at-home mom of small children is a lot like being the CEO of a corporation. But without anyone working under you and without receiving payment for your efforts. Kinda crazy when you think of it like that, huh?⁠
I smile as I write this, but that feeling was sometimes true for me. Of course, there are different ways to frame our choices as mothers. Such as looking at stay-at-home-motherhood through the lens of sheer fulfillment that comes from spending quality time with your kids and teaching them the ways of life. For me, what I eventually realized after my second child was born was that I needed to create a lifestyle that filled in the gaps where I felt something was missing. Specifically, I needed someone to help me manage my kids and my household. And I needed to be earning some money myself.⁠ {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading this mom's story!⁠}⁠
Article by: @kristen_vhmiddleton⁠
📷: @thegoddessher⁠
CC: @herholisticpath
Pretty much what summer is going to be like. 🤦‍♀️😑⁠
📷: @realamericandadass
Chick Picks: Best Baby Swings and Baby Bouncers⁠ Chick Picks: Best Baby Swings and Baby Bouncers⁠ 👶⁠
In the womb, babies love when you move and walk around because it rocks them to sleep. 🤰💤 When they are born into a cold and bright world, all of that change is a shock to the system! 😱 This is why babies love being cuddled and rocked by you. Your warmth, your scent, and that motion calms them and makes them feel right at home. However, it's unrealistic to think that any parent can constantly rock and bounce their baby. Your arms, shoulders, and upper back will ache! 😫 This is why baby swings and baby bouncers are a thing and why many parents swear by them. 👍 But what are the best baby swings and baby bouncers on the market? 🤔 We are sharing our favorites -- also known as our Chick Picks! -- so that you can look at the best ones and determine which is the right one for your baby. 😍 {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading!⁠}⁠
📷: @_aalina
Wishing that your day looked a little like this. 💙⁠ Someday soon we will all be united. 🙏
Dad giving a bottle to his baby, and a bottle to his baby, and a bottle to his baby. 🍼😂 We love dads!!⁠
📷: @nicolemacklephoto
Cheers to the good fathers. Today is your day. We Cheers to the good fathers. Today is your day. We don't thank you enough for everything you do every day for your family. You are appreciated more than you know by your partners and children. We hope today you feel that love and gratitude.⁠
Happy Father's Day! 💙
Happy Father's Day 💙 Sending love to anyone who Happy Father's Day 💙 Sending love to anyone who needs it today. ⁠💕⁠
📷: @gmf.designs
From the moment I knew of you, I loved you.⁠ Fro From the moment I knew of you, I loved you.⁠
From the moment I met you, I would die for you.⁠
Being your father is the greatest joy yet heaviest duty.⁠
From your first breath to my last, may you always know my unending devotion and love for you. ❤️⁠
📷: @monetnicolebirths