A Guide to Doulas: Birth & Postnatal Support

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Published On
14 Dec, 2023
Read Time
4 minutes

Are you expecting a baby or know someone who is? Pregnancy can be an exciting and overwhelming experience, which is why having the right support is important. This is where doulas come in.

In this blog, we’ll explore what doulas do, the benefits of having a doula, and how to find the right doula for you. So, whether you are a first-time parent or have been through childbirth before, keep reading to learn more about doulas and how they can help you.

What is a doula?

Doulas are trained professionals who provide emotional, physical, and informational support to expectant parents before, during, and after the birth of their baby. They're there to support and advocate for you, whatever decision you make.

There are two different types of doulas – birth doulas and postnatal doulas.

Birth doulas are there to offer support and reassurance during your birth and can make sure your birth plan is followed.

Postnatal doulas can offer support after the baby has arrived. They can help around the house, and make sure the parent has what they need to adapt to life with a new baby.

What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?

While both doulas and midwives can work together to support expectant parents, there are some key differences between the two.

Doulas aren’t medically trained. They provide non-judgemental emotional and physical support throughout pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. They do not provide medical care or make diagnosis.

Midwives, on the other hand, are healthcare professionals who provide medical care throughout the pregnancy and birth process, including prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum care. They are trained to handle complications and emergencies that may arise during childbirth and know when to refer a patient to a doctor if their birth strays from the expected pathway.

What does a doula do?

Doulas are typically thought of as an American concept, but they’re growing in popularity all over the world.

Not all parents have a doula, but their support can be really beneficial for some, both during birth and postnatally.  

Doulas typically:

  • Meet with parents before the due date to get to know them and learn how to offer support.
  • Offer non-medical pain management recommendations to help you manage contractions and labour pains.
  • Advocate for the parents during birth and while they're in the hospital.

Do I have to pay for a doula?

Yes. Doulas are typically an independent service, so you will probably need to pay for their support.

There are some doulas available through the NHS, but this is very limited. There are also charities – like Birth Companions and Doulas Without Borders – that may be able to help during labour, birth, and the immediate postpartum period.

How much does a doula cost?

There is no set price for doulas, the cost depends on where they are based, what they include in their service and their experience.

If you're interested in having a doula to support you, it's best to contact doulas near you to chat about your budget, their fees and potential payment instalments.

What are the benefits of having a doula?

Although many people find having a doula beneficial, it’s important to note that if you're pregnant and don’t feel that you need the support of a doula, there's nothing wrong with this.

The choice to be supported by a doula is a very personal one, and no two birth and postpartum experiences are the same.

Research shows that having a doula can reduce:

  • the risk of Caesarean birth
  • the need for an assisted birth
  • the need for painkillers or epidural during birth
  • the rate of induction of labour 
  • the length of labour

And can also increase:

  • the likelihood of successfully establishing breastfeeding
  • parent's satisfaction with their birth experience

Let's run through what the other benefits of having a doula are.

Emotional support

Doulas are trained to help you feel supported, able to make your own decisions and feel safe, and people who had a doula often say that they felt less nervous and more confident.

You can opt for your doula to be your designated birth partner, or they can work alongside your chosen birth partner. The support of a doula can also be beneficial if there's no partner or another family member present for the birth.

Physical support

Doulas are trained to provide hands-on, comforting massage during labour and can support you with specially-designed breathing techniques.

Culturally sensitive support

If you feel like you need extra support during childbirth, having a doula can be a great option. This is especially true if you have specific cultural preferences, such as wanting to keep your body covered during birth.

Where can I find a doula?

Most parents start to look for a doula during the second trimester of their pregnancy, although you can you can look for a doula at any stage of pregnancy.

Typically, doulas arrange to have an initial meeting with prospective clients to get to know each other better and see if they are a good match. This is a chance for both parties to determine if they're a good fit for each other's needs and preferences.

Find a doula and learn more about their services