What is a Doula and Do I Need One?
Research shows that expecting mamas matched with a doula have better birth outcomes. Doula-assisted mothers are four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby, two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding. We sat down with Erica Chidi—doula, author and co-founder of LOOM—to get all your doula questions answered.
By Erica Chidi
What is a doula?
A doula, just in the general framework, is someone who helps support and educate a person as they're navigating their sexual and reproductive health experience—and so, there are fertility doulas, there are birth doulas, and there are also miscarriage and abortion doulas. Essentially, the way a doula is showing up for their client is to help make whatever transition they're going through feel informed and supported. A doula is a non-medical care provider who is focused on the emotional, educational, and community of a person living through fertility, pregnancy, or otherwise.
What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?
A midwife is a clinical care provider, so they're able to provide medical care. Basically, a midwife can do everything an OBGYN can do other than perform surgery, typically. They're an actual medical clinician whereas a doula is not.
What are the benefits of a doula?
The benefits of a doula depend on the experience that they are supporting. When it comes to pregnancy and birth, doulas can help to support having a birth experience that has less intervention. People who use doulas for their births typically report having a better overall experience. Outside of the birth and into the pregnancy process, having a doula around to support you through your fertility experience can help you feel more calm, more informed, like you're less alone in the process, and give you a place to go and get some containment and create community around that journey which I think can be a really good decision for you, your mental health, and just for the process in general. From a research perspective, we know that doulas improve the birth and pregnancy experience and overall, just help you to have a more positive experience and also have someone to bear witness to your process.
Doulas can help to support having a birth experience that has less intervention.
Are doulas only useful if planning an unmedicated birth?
No, doulas can be very helpful for medicated birth and for Caesarean birth. The idea is having a continuous relationship with your doula, especially from early on in your pregnancy throughout the labor and into your postpartum period, creates this continuity of care that leads to the experience feeling more positive.
What should I look for in a doula? Are there certifications they should have?
I think that the most important thing that you are looking for when you are hiring a doula is making sure that you feel comfortable in their presence—that you feel like you can relax—and by presence, given the climate we're in right now, that might be virtually, or over the phone, but really feeling like you feel open to telling that person everything that is going on with you, and that you're able to be vulnerable. I think also making sure they're on board and have the same philosophy as you do around whatever experience they're supporting you in whether it's fertility, birth, pregnancy or otherwise.
In terms of certifications, I think certifications are less important because I think a lot of skills that a doula is providing are skills that can't necessarily be transferred through certification. And so, I think sometimes a doula might be someone who has apprenticed and worked with another doula or a midwife for a number of years. So, I think what you are typically looking for is experience, emotional safety, and resonance and philosophical connection in terms of the goals and the experience that you are moving through. Less so a certificate because someone could have a certificate but not have the experience that you're looking for and not make you feel safe and be on a very different page in terms of how they want to approach your birth or fertility experience.
How do you find a doula?
It really just depends. Right now, I think there are a lot of great places you can go online, but I think Facebook is a great place to look, so is Instagram. A lot of doulas have their presence on those platforms, I think doulatrainingsinternational.com is a great outlet for people to look as well.
How much does a doula cost?
It can depend on where you live. For example, if you're in LA, the price point is going to look very different than if you are in Ohio. So, it is really going to depend on where you are, but I would say it could run anywhere from $500 up to into the thousands depending on how much time and what services you're going to be requiring from the person.
For more pregnancy, fertility, and parenting support resources, check out Parent Plans.