Doulas and Support During Childbirth

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Topic Overview

How does support help during labor and childbirth?

Having support while you're in labor and delivering your baby can be a very positive experience.

Your support person may be your partner, a loved one, or a friend. You may get support from hospital nurses, a midwife, or a birth coach, also known as a doula. Doulas give support but do not deliver the baby.

A support person can help you feel more control and less fear. And this can help you manage your pain better.

Studies show that women who have a support person by their side throughout labor and childbirth are more likely to:footnote 1

  • Give birth without pain medicine.
  • Describe the birth in a positive way.
  • Give birth without the need for things like a cesarean or vacuum delivery.
  • Have slightly shorter labors.

And you may get the most benefit by using a trained and experienced birth assistant, like a doula, whose only job is to give you constant support.

What can you expect from a doula during labor and childbirth?

A doula doesn't provide medical care or deliver the baby. That's the job of your doctor or midwife. The doula's job is to help make your birth experience—and your partner's experience—the best it can be.

This can be especially helpful in a hospital setting, where labor and delivery nurses usually are busy with more than one patient.

Before you go to the hospital (or before your midwife arrives for a home birth), your doula can:

  • Offer massages or other things that help you feel more comfortable.
  • Answer your questions or your family's questions.
  • Reassure you and your partner that everything is normal.
  • Help you track your labor.
  • Support you in the car ride to the hospital.
  • Make sure you know where to go and what to do when you get there.

At the hospital, your doula can:

  • Help you get comfortable and stay relaxed.
  • Support your partner or loved one and make sure that he or she feels confident and helpful.
  • Remind you to breathe.
  • Make sure the hospital staff has a copy of your birth plan.
  • Remind hospital staff about your wishes, such as whether or not you want to be offered pain medicine.

During a home birth, your doula may also:

  • Prepare the water if you want to labor in water.
  • Take care of cleaning up after the birth.
  • Reassure family members.
  • Help a birth photographer, if you have one.

How do you find a doula?

There are several organizations that train and certify doulas. But there are doulas who don't have formal training.

To find a doula, start by getting recommendations from your doctor, birthing centers, and hospitals. Friends who have used doulas in the past may also help you find one. If you go to a childbirth education class, the class leader may have information about local doulas.

Organizations that train and certify doulas have websites you can look at. There you will find contact information for doulas in your area.

After you have a list of candidates, it's important to meet and interview them. You'll see how well the two of you connect. Find out how much training and experience the doula has. And ask about the cost.

Will insurance pay for a doula?

Some—but not all—insurance companies will cover all or part of the cost of a doula. Check with your insurance company to find out.

There may be a volunteer doula program in your area for women who can't afford to hire one. And some doulas offer a sliding fee scale, based on what a woman can afford.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Hodnett ED, et al. (2013). Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (7). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub5. Accessed July 18, 2014.

Other Works Consulted

  • Hodnett ED, et al. (2013). Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (7). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub5. Accessed July 18, 2014.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMay 22, 2015