What do doulas actually do?
Updated: Mar 14
If you’re not familiar with the term doula, is offically defined by Wikipedia as “a trained companion, who is not a healthcare professional, and who supports another individual through a significant health-related experience, such as childbirth, miscarriage, induced abortion or stillbirth, or non-reproductive experiences such as dying.”
You may be thinking, “Cool, but what does all of that really mean?”
Hold onto your mesh panties, because I’m about to explain. Since we are Atlanta Birth Doula, I will be focusing strictly on the childbirth side of doula work.
First, I want to point out that doulas are not obstetricians or midwives and are not meant to replace their medical care. If you are hiring a doula, you are doing so in addition to a medical provider.
I also want to mention that doulas are for all births!
There is a stereotype out there that doulas are only for unmedicated home births. This is not true! Doulas are for unmedicated births, hospital births, epidural births, birth center births, c-section births, and home births. Also, doulas are not only for first-time moms! If you are having another baby and want a different birth experience, having a doula can be a great way to get there.
NOTE: If you know you are having an induced stillbirth, there are also specially trained doulas (make sure to find one who has been trained through Still Birthday) to help you navigate the emotional complexities of this tragic experience.
Doulas, as opposed to most medical providers, are there to provide mental and emotional support through your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum period.
Doulas are knowledgeable about your local community. They know where all the best childbirth classes are, the reputations of the local hospitals, and the best places to set up your registry.
They know all the referrals based on your needs. Looking for a quality prenatal massage therapist, chiropractor, new obstetrician or midwife (yes, you can change providers! See below), or workout class? Your doula has all done all of that research for you and will make the best recommendations.
Your mental and emotional well-being is your doula’s top priority. She is there to support you through any challenges that arise in your pregnancy, including uncomfortability with a current provider. She can help you navigate whether or not to find a new provider and how to find one that is the best first for your birth plan.
Your doula is there with you throughout your entire labor. This means when you’re naked, when you vomit, when you poop, and when you’re covered in “blood and guts.” This is why it’s so important to find the doula who’s right for you!
They’re able to be with you starting in your home, keeping you home longer.
If you are having an unmedicated birth, your doula will be able to help you and your partner with different comfort measures throughout labor. She will help you work through each contraction, show you different relaxation and distraction techniques, encourage and motivate you, and use techniques like counter-pressure or using a rebozo.
In the first hour or two after birth, your doula will ensure that everyone is settling in okay, and that baby is latching properly and/or getting good skin-to-skin, depending on if you plan to breastfeed.
Instead of waiting the usual 6 weeks for your doctor to lay eyes on you, your doula will be checking in on you frequently in the early days. Usually, the postpartum visit is sometime in the first two weeks.
During the postpartum visit, not only will your doula check on how you and baby are healing and bonding, she will assist with breastfeeding latch and positions, meal preparation, taking care of baby while you take care of yourself (nap, sleep, etc.), emotional support, and picking up the house.
If you find yourself in need of more of these visits, or need help overnight, find a Postpartum Doula. At Atlanta Birth Doula, many of our doulas also do postpartum work.
Now that you’ve heard (the short list) of some of the amazing things that doulas do, let’s talk about what doulas should not do. Again, doulas should not take part in your medical care. We do not do…
Check your blood pressure
Map your belly
DELIVER YOUR BABY!
These are tasks that require medical training that doulas do not receive. That said, we can happily provide you with resources for any questions you have!
Are you curious about what all of this looks like? Click here to see pictures of two of our doulas in action.