Doulas are trained professionals who can help support you during pregnancy and even postpartum in major ways. Trained to provide physical and emotional support before, during, and after labor, here’s why it’s important to find one who really gets you.
How can doulas help?
Starting in pregnancy, doulas can support you by helping you learn more about labor and delivery, answering questions you have about the process, and helping make sure that you know all your options before the big day. Doulas can also support you throughout labor, helping you position your body to find more comfort, offering hands-on touch to provide relief and promote calm, and helping you communicate with your healthcare provider to ensure that you feel in control during the process.
And because, in many instances, you might not deliver your baby with the healthcare provider who has been seeing you throughout your pregnancy, a doula can serve as a great source of consistency and stability throughout your pregnancy journey. They can even provide you with support postpartum as your body recovers, as you learn to breastfeed (if you choose to) and care for an infant, and as you adjust to how this major transition reshapes your life.
Another big way doulas offer support is by helping you to advocate for the kind of care you want and need. Self-advocacy when it comes to the medical care you’ll receive during this time is hugely important, especially if you experience a medical professional who is not really hearing you. Because you’ll have been working with your doula for sometime and they’ll really understand what you want and need — and because you’ll likely be very comfortable speaking with them honestly about your wants and needs — they can help back you up, communicate your needs, and make sure you’re heard.
In addition, recent research shows that doulas can help lead to better health outcomes. Folks who work with doulas are less likely to experience complications that involve them or their baby, are less likely to have a baby with low birth weight, and have higher rates of breastfeeding.
Why it’s important to find one who gets you
Clearly working with a doula has some major benefits, but how can you choose one who’ll be best for you? It can be incredibly helpful to work with a doula who can provide you with personalized support — physically, emotionally, and educationally. Often finding a doula who works in your community — someone who you feel you can really connect with and speak with honestly — is the best choice.
How doulas can play a role in helping with birth equity
Health inequity in the United States has devastating consequences for Black women and families, who experience disproportionately worse maternal and infant health outcomes for a number of reasons — including limited access to care, dismissal of pain and other health concerns, and higher rates of underlying health conditions — racism and unconscious bias in the healthcare system are huge factors in each of these areas.
Doulas can play a role in improving birth equity, which is “the assurance of the conditions of optimal births for all people, with a willingness to address racial and social inequities in a sustained effort.” There are, for example, doula groups run by and for Black women, so that those doulas can really understand what the people they are working with are going through, the challenges they may be facing, and can help support all of their unique needs. A personalized doula experience, where you really feel like your doula understands your unique needs and wishes, can greatly improve health outcomes.
You deserve support
So if you’d like to work with a doula, try and seek one out in your community who you connect with and who understands where you’re coming from. A quick internet search may help you find independent doulas or doula groups in your area (DONA International, a leading doula certifying organization, has a database to search by location). You may also want to ask your healthcare provider if they have any recommendations. And it’s also worth noting that some healthcare offices and community clinics may even be able to help get you set up to work with doulas in your community, some of whom may be available to support you at no cost during pregnancy and postpartum.
Doulas can be expensive and inaccessible for some people to hire on their own, so even if free community doula services are not available through your healthcare office or clinic, many student doulas do offer free or discounted services. So if you’re interested in doula services, start your search today. You deserve to have the kind of support a doula can provide.
- How to advocate for yourself as a patient to get the care you deserve
- Why bringing a support person with you to appointments can help you advocate for the best healthcare
- Kenneth J. Gruber, Susan H. Cupito, Christina F. Dobson. “Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes.” The Journal of Perinatal Education. 22(1): 49-58. Winter 2013. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647727/.
- “Find a Doula.” DONA International. DONA International. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/find-a-doula/.
- “Obstetric Care Consensus: Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2016. Retrieved August 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/obstetric-care-consensus/articles/2014/03/safe-prevention-of-the-primary-cesarean-delivery.