Birth Doula FAQs
What is a birth doula?
“A Birth Doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth. A Birth Doula recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life and she understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor. She assists each mother in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth and stays with her throughout the labor. A Birth Doula provides an objective viewpoint and facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers. She perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the mother’s memory of the birth experience and she also assists the mother’s partner to participate at his/her own comfort level.” –DONA International
What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
A midwife’s most important role is as the medical guardian for your birth. She monitors your health and your baby’s health, and she usually catches your little one. A doula is a non-medical professional who offers physical support, emotional support, informational resources and advocacy skills. As doulas, we are trained in supporting each woman’s birth, and our goal is to make it the smoothest, most comfortable and centered process for the new family. Our most important goal is to help you have the best birth possible.
I’m seeing a wonderful midwife that I really like; do I still need a doula?
We love the midwifery model of care. As noted above, your midwife is your medical guardian. A doula is an expert in supporting the whole family through labor. At various points in every labor, your midwife’s attention has to turn toward your safety and your baby’s safety; as your doula, we will be focused on your physical and emotional comfort. Consider too, that some midwives have excellent labor support skills and really enjoy sitting quietly with women for hours on end, and others do not. Often we can be with you during your nighttime labor so that the midwife can sleep for a few hours—and it’s helpful if your midwife is well-rested and alert at the most critical moments of birth. Even the best hospital-based midwife will not be able to meet you at home and labor with you there, and she may have more than one patient in labor when you arrive at the hospital. As your doula, we are your expert sounding board and resource both during pregnancy and birth. You can call us at 7 p.m. to ask us about heartburn or swollen feet, or just to talk through any worries. Also, it’s important to consider that we work only for you, and we are not bound by hospital policy or other political considerations, so we may have suggestions that you wouldn’t hear elsewhere. A midwife and doula complement each other during labor, and we often find ourselves brainstorming on the best way to support the mother or help the labor progress.
Do you work with Doctors?
Absolutely! Most physicians spend very little time with the mother during her labor, so we can be especially helpful for labor support. We’ve developed positive relationships with a number of family doctors and obstetricians in the region.
So what exactly will you do at my birth?
It’s hard to say ahead of time. We bring an entire toolbox of ideas, tricks and techniques. Sometimes we might 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. We might 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. We could be focusing on natural ways to help your labor progress, or how to straighten out a baby that’s slightly mal-positioned. Perhaps we’ll give you ideas on how to negotiate with the staff to achieve some important elements of your birth plan. Sometimes we are offering a lot of support to your husband or partner, showing him and other loved ones how they can best help you, and reassure them about what’s normal. Maybe we’ll offer a hand massage to help you rest and relax, or we’ll explain your options and help you brainstorm questions when you’re facing medical interventions for you or your baby. On occasion, our help and reassurance after the birth might be key to establishing your nursing relationship. Every labor unfolds in it’s own, unique way. Our job is to bring our expertise in birth to the table and stay fully present and supportive, whatever your needs may be.
I’d love to have a doula, but my husband (or partner) really wants to be my support person.
Dads are sometimes nervous that a doula might take over their role, and 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. Your tour guide doesn’t take away from your trip, we enhance it for both of you. The same is true of a doula. We can help you both navigate the health care system and understand the process of labor and birth. We often find ourselves reassuring dads about the normal sights and sounds of labor, which can be disconcerting to even the best prepared support person. We can show dads 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. Yes, that’s it, just like that!” Mom is 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.” As a doula, we often find ourselves bonding closely with the dad during the birth, as we work together to figure out the best way to support her. Dads are generally so happy to have another “birth partner” with them for the journey!
But my mom/friend/aunt is going to be with me for the birth. Do I still need a doula?
Friends and family members can make wonderful labor support people, but their role is distinctly different than a doula. As your doula, we bring specialized training in birth and labor support. We have seen many births in various settings and we can help familiarize you with what to expect at each stage. We don’t have the same emotional attachments as your family, so it’s easier for us to separate ourselves from your choices—we’re 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 we might say or do in any given situation. We’re there for your unconditional support and we can support your friends and family, too, just as we support dads and partners in the birth space.
Isn’t all of this what nurses are supposed to do?
In the past, labor support was a big part of a labor and delivery nurse’s job. Today, however, nurses have many other responsibilities, including medical monitoring, detailed charting and caring for numerous other patients. And as you might expect, even if they had time, some nurses enjoy and are very skilled at labor support, while for others that is not their strength. By having a doula, you’re ensuring that you have someone at your birth who can meet you at home and help with the transition to the hospital, is devoted only to you, whose personality is a good fit with your own, and who has specific training in attending to mothers’ (and fathers’) physical and emotional needs.
I’m planning a hospital birth, and I want to stay home as long as possible once labor begins. Will you come to my house?
Yes, of course! This is one of the big benefits of having a doula. We’re usually in touch with clients by phone in very early labor, and then if you’d like, we can meet you at your home as things pick up. We’re not a medical provider so of course we are not monitoring the baby or doing vaginal exams. But for those who want to stay at home until hard, active labor, we can help you move your labor forward until that point, help you recognize those signposts, and then help with the transition to the hospital.
I know I want to use pain medication; will a doula try to talk me out of it? (Or, I think I want a natural birth, but what if I change my mind?)
We come into your birth space with an open mind and an open heart. We are not there to carry out some agenda; we’re there to help you have the best birth possible, whatever that looks like for you. We’ll talk in-depth during our prenatal meeting to learn more about what kind of birth you envision, and we’ll put all of our energy toward helping you get there. And if you get into labor and for whatever reason plans change, we can actually 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. We can also help you cope with the physical side effects of medication, to continue making your journey as comfortable as possible. Sometimes pain medication doesn’t work as expected, but mom’s movements and coping tools are suddenly limited—we will get you through.
What if I need a c-section?
There are so many things we can do to help make a cesarean birth the most loving, family-centered experience possible. For example, we can be with you before the surgery, to help with relaxation and assist you in brainstorming questions for your health care team. We 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—we can help with those negotiations. Doulas are sometimes allowed to stay with you and your partner in the operating room during the surgery, although this is always a case-by-case decision by your surgeon and anesthesiologist. If we are in the OR, we can help explain what is happening during the surgery and 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 which case the dad or partner generally goes with the baby, and we will stay by your side. This helps mothers to not feel so alone as the surgery is finished and recovery begins, and helps partners to not feel so torn between mom and baby. In most cases, though, the baby will go with the mom to a recovery area, where we can help you establish nursing and skin-to-skin bonding. And finally, if the cesarean was unexpected, we will offer a compassionate, listening ear to help you process the birth. We can also connect you with resources.
I’m planning a home birth, do I need a doula?
Not every home birth mom wants a doula, but many find the extra support invaluable. Although the advocacy part of our job may be less with a home birth, we still help with all the same issues at home as in the hospital—your physical and emotional comfort, your partner’s well-being, and informational support about your options and what’s happening with your labor. Many times we will labor with you for a significant stretch of time before your midwife comes to the birth. When she arrives, we work together as a cohesive team to help you have the best experience possible.
How is it that doulas contribute to better outcomes for moms and babies?
There’s definitely something unique about what a doula brings to a birth. The physical assistance and information we offer can help couples avoid unnecessary interventions—better outcomes. When interventions are medically necessary, we can help mitigate the side effects—better outcomes. Doulas can help women feel safer and more comfortable during their birth, which allows their hormones to function optimally—better outcomes. We have breastfeeding expertise and can offer encouragement and insights based on helping scores of other women nurse their babies—better outcomes. It would be impossible to list all of the ways a good doula can help improve a couple’s odds of a normal birth, but this gives you an idea of how our support impacts outcomes for moms and babies. We bring skills and knowledge to the birth team that no one else can offer.
Are doulas covered by insurance?
In most cases, insurance does not cover doula services. However, the national organization that governs insurance billing codes recently added a code for doula services. Many see this as an indicator that insurance coverage for our services may be on the horizon. Until that time, couples are encouraged to submit a claim to their insurance company. Typically, it will be rejected at first glance, but if you appeal that ruling you will receive a review, at which time you may make a case for the benefit of a doula. The more consumers ask for this service (directly to the insurance company and through your human resources office), the greater likelihood doula services will eventually be covered. Some medical savings accounts do cover doula services, which is a nice opportunity to pay with pre-tax money. We also offer gift certificates, so grandparents, aunts and other loved ones can help pay for your doula services.
When is the best time to hire a doula?
You can hire a doula any time you’re ready—we’ve had clients contact us when they’re just six weeks pregnant, or the week before they go into labor. The best time to hire a doula, though, seems to be in the second trimester. This is when most mothers’ thoughts turn to birth, and it gives us a good chunk of time to get to know one another before your little one arrives. Call us or send an e-mail when you’re ready to talk, it’s never too early or too late!
Which hospitals do you work at?
We work all over the Houston, TX area from the Medical Center to Tomball, the Woodlands, Kingwood, Sugar Land, Katy, and more.
Are you familiar with HypnoBirthing or Hypnobabies?
Definitely. Nina and Mary are certified hypno-doulas and love supporting clients who choose this method of childbirth. We’ve seen women snore through transition and breathe their babies out. It is remarkable and leaves the OB speechless! We believe to effectively use hypnosis during childbirth, mamas need to practice regularly and have a hypno-doula present to assist during the birthing time.
What is your birth philosophy?
It is your body, your baby and your birth experience so you should decide how we will support you during labor. Specifically, we support whatever decisions you make that you feel are best for you and your family. Our ultimate goal is to have a happy, healthy mommy and baby and to help you achieve your goals and heart’s desire!
I’ve hired a BBP birth doula, now what?
We first meet with you for a consultation during your pregnancy to answer and address any questions or concerns that you may have. Once you have chosen one of our birth doulas, we will meet with you two more times for personalized prenatal visits. During these visits, your doula can help you build your birth plan by listening to your wants for your labor and birth. She can provide objective information about topics that may be concerning you or that you would like more information on. She can also introduce you to some relaxation techniques to use during labor and she is available to discuss the pros and cons of your options and will support the decisions you make. We like to give you as much information as possible to help you make birth choices that are right for you and your baby. When you go into labor, please call your doula anytime, day or night, and she will evaluate how you are doing and help you determine what your next step should be. You and your doula will have early labor phone contact for information and for you both to decide on when and where to meet. She will need approximately one to two hours to get to you from the time you call. Our doulas can help you labor and give birth at home, a birth center or at a hospital. Your doula will be with you continuously throughout the labor and birth and will use her knowledge and experience to provide you with physical comfort and emotional and educational support. She helps you with changing positions during labor, she provides massage to make sure you are as relaxed and comfortable as possible, she brings music, aromatherapy and so much more. Your doula will stay with you up to the first two hours after birth to assist with breastfeeding, answer any questions and to ensure that you, your partner and your baby are settled in together. Your doula will schedule a postpartum visit with you at your home, the hospital, the birth center, or any place to meet that is convenient for you after the birth. She will review your birth experience, clarify events that took place around you, answer any questions that you may have, provide tips and assistance that you may need and ask for feedback from you about her role.
Postpartum Doula FAQs
What is a postpartum doula?
“A Postpartum Doula provides emotional and educational support to new families during the postpartum period (first 12 weeks after childbirth). They help parents discover their own parenting style by providing them with options and facts. This gives parents more confidence during the transition into their new roles. A Postpartum Doula assists with newborn care, family adjustment, and light household tidying. She also offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary.” –DONA International
What will a postpartum doula do while she is with our family?
A postpartum doula’s role is so unique to every family. Essentially, we 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. We are like teachers, sharing evidence-based information and helping you integrate the baby into your family. We might take over baby care for a short time so that you can have a shower or a nap, or show you how to use several different baby carriers. We can also do some light housekeeping, such as washing dishes or wiping down counters. If you have older children, we may spend time playing, or working with them to help them adjust to the big sibling role. We will come in with a keen sense of what new families typically need, and then work with you to decide how we can best support you through the transition into parenthood.
Who needs a postpartum doula?
Traditionally, a new mother would be surrounded by an entire village of support people who could nurture her in the tender weeks and months postpartum. In our society, we too often send new parents alone to their isolated little boxes, without meaningful support and guidance. Postpartum doulas can be helpful for families whose relatives live far away, or whose family members don’t share their parenting philosophy. We work for brand new parents, and those who are adding a sibling to the family. Pretty much anyone who wants to get parenting off to a smooth start can benefit from a postpartum doula.
How long will you stay, and for how many days/weeks?
The time we spend with a family varies greatly, depending on their circumstances and needs. The thing that makes us different from other postpartum doulas is that we do not have a minimum set of visits or hours per family. We are here to help any and all families during this new and exciting phase in their lives for as little or as long as they need. Normally, it’s most common for us to spend several days a week in the new family’s home. You might work with us for a few days, a few weeks or a few months, there is no one right time frame for every family.
How is a postpartum doula different from a nanny or baby nurse?
Baby nurses bring medical expertise to childcare, while a doula is a non-medical professional who is trained to support new families. Nannies take over childcare responsibilities from the parents, while we, your doulas, will work to empower you as a parent.
I have help from my husband/partner/mom/aunt/friends…what else can a postpartum doula offer?
All of those people 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. We are an objective source of information and support who 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 because they learn exactly how to be most supportive.
What is the postpartum doula’s goal? Will she push a particular parenting approach?
Our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job. We will work to build your skill and comfort as a new parent, until you are so at ease that you no longer need our support. We don’t push one particular parenting method over another, and we won’t judge your choices. We are good listeners who can help new moms and dads sort through their feelings and find resources to support whatever approach is best for them.
How can you help my husband, partner, or children?
It can be overwhelming to care for a new mom and baby, and postpartum doulas can help share that nurturing role. For dads and partners, we 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 we can help ease that transition by spending time playing, talking about their new role, and 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.
Do you help mothers cope with postpartum depression?
We are not therapists or medical providers, so we do not treat postpartum depression. However, we can help new families recognize the symptoms of imbalance, and connect them with resources for help. We are good listeners, so we 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.
What is the best time to hire a postpartum doula?
During your second trimester is a great time to hire a postpartum doula. It allows you some time to get to know your doula and settle into your plans, and it allows us to roughly pencil your baby’s arrival into her schedule. That said, it’s also appropriate to contract with your doula as you get very close to your birth, or even after your baby is born. Those kinds of requests aren’t uncommon at all. Please call or e-mail, we are always happy to brainstorm and we’re generally able to help.
I know a lot about babies, why would I need to hire a postpartum doula?
Whether you are a first time mom or have several children at home, hiring a postpartum doula will make your life easier in the days after your baby is born by caring for you and your baby.
What should I look for when hiring a postpartum doula?
When hiring any professional who works in your home, you should ask about training and certifications. Not all doulas are trained, but some choose that route. You can search for trained doulas through Doulas of North America (DONA) or Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA). Many doulas are also trained in infant CPR.
Why not hire a babysitter?
Postpartum doulas specialize in the early weeks after a baby is born. We typically only work with families for the first few months of your baby’s life. We help with breastfeeding, we are knowledgeable about what normal recovery looks like for mom, we will help your household run smoothly so you can bond with your baby and rest. We are willing to help clean, do light laundry, run errands, help with meal preparation, and help other children adjust to having a new baby in the home. One of the most important aspects of postpartum doula care is evidence-based care, we offer techniques based on what research shows to be the best care for infants. Each family is different, so their needs are different. A postpartum doula will work to support those needs.
I’ve hired a BBP postpartum doula, now what?
You can contact us to set up an interview. This is a great time to get to know each other and ask any questions that you may have about her training and doula style. We will go over what we can do for you and your family and when we are available. Once you have chosen your BBP postpartum doula, the things that she will cover with you in your home are: support and assistance with breastfeeding and/or bottle-feeding, bathing, cord care, baby wearing (use of slings, wraps and packs), soothing your crying baby, referrals and community resources, and much more. We also help with shopping, errands, bottle cleaning, washing dishes, nursery organization, and baby’s laundry. As postpartum doulas, we provide assistance during the postpartum period (the first 12 weeks after childbirth). Any assistance after the first 12 weeks is when a nanny or mother’s helper would come in to help. This is why we help each new mother set up a “Mommy Plan”, which is a plan of action before the first 12 weeks ends. We have wonderful relationships with local nanny agencies and are happy to refer our clients to them.