What does a doula do & do I need one?

Support is key during labor and giving birth. Having a good support team can have a major impact as to whether your birth experience is a positive one or not.

A doula can be a big part of this team! I personally loved working with my doula. My husband and I loved her so much that we hired her again for the birth of our second child.

In this post, I answer the questions what is a doula? What does a doula do? The costs of having a doula. The benefits of a doula. And the question that may have brought you to this post should I hire a doula? I hope this helps you decide whether or not a doula is right for you!

everything to know about doulas

Be sure to check out my Pregnancy Page for more great information.

None of the information in this post or on this website should be used in place of medical advice. These are simply my opinions and insights based on experience and research.

What is a doula?

A doula is a woman who helps to coach you through the birth process. They’re not just anyone, they do go through an education and sometimes a certification process as well. Much of their knowledge is gained through experience, they work with a lot of pregnant women and attend many births so they’ve seen it all!

Is a doula similar to a midwife? No, a doula cannot replace a midwife or doctor. They are NOT trained medical professionals and they cannot actually deliver your baby. They are a birth coach to help and support you through the process while the medical staff focus on the medical end of things.

There are actually two types of doulas, a birth doula and postpartum doula. A birth doula is the one most people refer to when they talk about doulas.

But there are also postpartum doulas who may help with breastfeeding and can be an extra support in the early days of having a newborn. They essentially would help like a family member would, taking shifts with the baby, possibly even an overnight so you can finally get some rest. A postpartum doula will help to care for your baby after the birth.

What does a doula do? services provided

Doulas can serve a wide array of functions depending on their preferences and your own. But let’s discuss some of the common ones:

  • Massage – Doulas will often provide massage during the labor process and provide counter pressure to help you work through the contractions.
  • Help with pain coping – Your doula will help to remind you of your pain coping mechanisms and help you to use them during birth. This may be birth affirmations, helping you to change positions, whatever you have decided will work best for you.
  • Advocating – A doula can be your advocate to help you to have the birth you want according to your birth plan. They have been through this process many times while it may be your first time. They can help to alert staff to your needs and help to explain options to you if interventions become necessary. They are going to be that friendly, calming presence in a birthing experience that can get chaotic at times.
  • Keeping everyone calm – This is important during labor and birth. It can be a long stressful process. They will help to keep both you and your spouse/partner calm and focused on the task at hand. They can also go get drinks, snacks, etc so that your partner doesn’t have to leave your side.
  • Breastfeeding support – Post birth some doulas may be able to help support you in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. Not all doulas are trained in breastfeeding so that’s something you may want to ask as you interview potential doulas.
  • Placenta encapsulation – Many doulas also offer post birth services such as placenta encapsulation.

Each doula is a little different so you will want to discuss exactly what they provide with each doula you interview.

Should I hire a doula?

Who should hire a doula? Deciding who should be in the delivery room for the birth of your baby. A doula can serve as part of that support team.

First time moms especially may want someone with them who has been through birth before. If you have a family member or close friend who works in labor and delivery they may be able to provide this support for you.

However, you need to think about not only thier experience but your relationship and their demeanor before deciding to use them as part of your support team.

If you are a first time mom and don’t have a person in your life with that education or demeanor a doula can be a great option. They don’t need to replace having your partner or other family there but they will have the experience of having been through the birth process while you and your partner are flying blind.

A doula is also a great option for military families who live far from their family and support people. As much as your family may try to be there when the baby arrives, babies have a mind of their own and come when they are ready. You’ll want someone local who is sure to be there when your baby decides to make their appearance.

Doulas are most often used my moms wanting to have a more natural birth experience. Doulas will still work with you if an epidural is part of your birth plan. However, a big part of what a doula does is help with pain coping mechanisms for those that want to avoid using pain medication. (I ended up having an epidural with both of my births.)

If pain medications are part of your plan definitely discuss it with potential doulas to see how they can still help you through the birth process.

Doulas can also serve as part of your team if you plan to give birth at a birth center or even at home. They can help to round out your small birth team in these birth environments.

How much does it cost to hire a doula

As with anything, the cost of hiring a doula can vary widely depending on thier experience and where you live. A more experienced doula will cost much more than a new doula or one that is still in training. Some trainee doulas may even work with you for free as they build their experience. There is even a hospital here in San Diego that provides volunteer doulas, so long as one is available during your birth.

Hiring a doula could cost anywhere from $300 – $2500 depending on their training and the services you need. Most will be in the $800-$1200 range.

This will generally include a few visits during your pregnancy to get to know each other and discuss your plans and desires for your birth. They will be on call to come whenever you go into labor and stay until your baby arrives.

If they have breastfeeding training they may stay after your baby arrives to help establish breastfeeding. They often will visit at least once after you are home with your baby to see how things are going and discuss how the birth went and any lingering feelings you have regarding the experience. The higher range may also include placenta encapsulation services.

While this can sound expensive birth is one of the biggest events you will go through in your life. It can be scary and traumatic at times. It can also be a beautiful experience. Whether to hire one is a very personal decision and will depend on your personality and experience and the environment in which you are going to give birth.

A big hospital can quickly become very impersonal and having people who know and care about you through the experience can make a big difference. Below I share my story as well as a few other moms stories of what we loved best about working with a doula.

Where to find a doula

Hopefully, by this point in the post, you have some idea as to whether hiring a doula may be right for you! Now how do you go about hiring one?

The first thing to do is to plan early. Doulas can only take on a few clients each month as they try to avoid having multiple clients go into labor at the same time. Most will have a backup or small team of doulas they work with in the event that they have two moms in labor simultaneously or if they or a family member get sick. This is something you’ll want to ask at an interview.

Where to find a doula

To find potential doulas you can ask other mom friends or a local mom Facebook group for recommendations.

There are also websites such as Doula Match that can provide you with a list of potential candidates. The website will tell you their price range as well as how many years of experience they have to help you narrow down the candidates.

You can also check your local birth center for lists of possible candidates. They will often provide this information even if you are not giving birth at the birth center.

Next will come the interviews. Ideally, you should interview at least three candidates before making your decision. Your husband or partner should attend the interviews with you if possible as a doula will support both of you even though the mom is, of course, her primary focus.

Other women’s experience using a doula

Now that you know all the basics about what a doula does and where to find one I wanted to share some personal experiences from myself and other moms who’ve worked with a doula during the birth of their baby.

My experience

My doula was a wonderful woman named Michaela. She was a candidate I found through Doula Match. My first birth, for the most part, went nothing like I planned. You can read my birth story if you enjoy that type of thing.

She coached my husband and I through each change of plan and assured us we were making the right decision. She gave us the assurance we needed through the tired haze of labor and being first time parents who had never experienced birth before.

Diana, from Forever my little Moon

Being first-time parents, our favorite thing about having a doula was that we had someone who was more experienced than us around and knew what was going on. It made my pregnancy and labor much more relaxed, which is one of the reasons why I think my labor was so short (6 hours).

Another benefit was that it gave us an extra person, so my husband never had to leave my side. Our doula would instead run to grab ice chips or to find a nurse.

Rachelle, from Mama Writes Reviews

I had two home births, both with a midwife and a midwife/doula. The lady acting as my doula was the SWEETEST lady ever and while my midwife was all about the babies and their safety, my doula was all about MY safety.

I had very quick births, but my youngest’s birth was very rough on me. My doula/midwife stayed well past when she needed to to make sure I was okay. I remember her sitting right by me as I had a massive panic attack after it was all over and done with.

She was just what I needed right then. She helped get me cleaned up and all settled in. She even helped my baby latch. She is an amazing woman and made childbirth all that much easier.

Inez, from For the love of Mom

A good friend of mine is a doula, so I knew I would have one when I had a baby long before I knew I would even have a baby and long before I had any clue why a doula is so important!

My doula played a major role in helping ease my fear of childbirth; after meeting with her, I felt less scared and more empowered. She was amazing at preparing me and my mom who was my birthing coach answered all of my questions and helped me discover the pain relief exercises that would work for me.

Having a knowledgeable advocate to call and talk through some of the decisions I had to make as my due date came and went, was really helpful.

Lizzie, from Lizzie Lau

I was pregnant at 40, and living in Guatemala City when I realized that I wasn’t comfortable with, nor confident in, the medical care I was getting there.  One doctor repeatedly told me that at my age I wouldn’t be able to deliver naturally and should schedule a c-section.  Another doctor fixated on the fact that I had a cat and insisted that if I didn’t get rid of her my baby would be born blind.  

My parents were wintering in Southern California so I told them I needed to fly up and find a doctor there.  My sister, a doula in Canada, flew down to meet me.  We interviewed a doctor together and both liked his vibe.  I went back to Guatemala and a few months later I flew back to Palm Springs to give birth.

My sister was there as my doula, and supported me at home while I labored for 36 hours.  When the contractions were finally holding steady at 5 minutes apart, my Mom drove us to the hospital.

On the way my sister told me that I shouldn’t be disappointed if I wasn’t fully dilated yet.  The nurses weren’t taking me too seriously while I was checking in, but finally got me onto an exam table to check my cervix.  My mom and my sister were hovering outside the door and I could hear them cheer when the nurse pronounced me 9.5cm and ready to go!

The delivery was quiet and almost exactly what I hoped for.  I’m so happy to have had the support of a doula during the entire labor and delivery. Read about her full birth experience.

Chelsea, from Pack more into Life

When my husband and I became pregnant with our son, we weren’t sure what to expect. I had always loved birth as a child and watched way too many series of the TV show “Baby Story” on TLC. So I knew about midwives and doulas.

Being a military family, we are far away from family and my mom lived 9 hours away. That meant hiring a doula would be the perfect answer to helping us calm our nerves, guide us through the process and be an expert in the room that was on OUR side.

I honestly can’t say enough amazing things about our Doula Tara. Even though I had a quick labor and delivery with no medication, she was there to support my husband and I. She was there to tell me that my body knew exactly what to do and reminded me to breath when my whole body got tingly.

As my husband would say, she was worth every penny as my son burst into the world (with lots of extra fluid behind him), making a nice splash on our doulas shoes. He was happy that he was snuggled up by my head. She was also a huge support as we began our breastfeeding journey because she was also a lactation consultant.

Now whenever anyone mentions that they are pregnant, I try to share how helpful and supportive having a doula was for us. There is something so special about welcoming babies into the world and having a woman who has been there time and time again is very reassuring.

Feel free to check out my family travel blog where we explore the world with our now almost 4 year old son!

If you have other questions about working with a doula feel free to drop them below and I’ll do my best to answer them or shoot me an email at

why you should hire a doula

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