Perhaps your best friend told you she was getting a doula for her pregnancy and you nodded along like you knew exactly what that meant but really, you had no idea. You made a mental note to Google it later but forgot.
And here you are. Still not quite sure what they do but you keep hearing other moms mentioning “doula.”
That’s where we come in. We’re here to break it down for you. Not just in terms of what one doula does but the different types and how a doula might be someone to add to your village.
Let’s dive in.
The word doula comes from the Greek word meaning “servant.” Others define doula as “a mother to the mother.” While doula’s hold many roles, their primary one is to serve you. We like to think of them as your advocate, emotional and physical supporter, companion and educator. They’re non-clinical practitioners, meaning that they don’t provide medical advice, but rather, they listen to you and your partner’s needs and advocate for you.
The truth is, the roles of doulas are often misunderstood today. Many think…
But the truth is…they’re not.
Times have changed. With the number of resources available to mamas and the landscape evolving by the day, more are open to the many options available for them and their baby. This gives power back to the mamas to decide how it’s all going to go down.
For those who are familiar with doulas, a birth doula might be the first kind of doula that comes to mind, but in actuality, there are three types of doula’s who can help support you in all stages of your mamahood journey. We’re breaking all three of them down here so you can find the right doula for you.
The fertility journey can be a roller coaster of ups and downs, and with information and technology changing as we type this, having someone to guide you along that journey is essential. This is where a fertility doula comes in.
A Fertility Doula, like a birth doula, is a non-medical advocate, educator and support person for you and your partner (if you have one joining you on this journey).
Fertility doulas can help you…
While a fertility doctor (i.e. reproductive endocrinologist) looks at hormone levels and ensures your reproductive organs are in tip-top shape, a fertility coach examines from a holistic point of view.
Many of them have been through their own struggles, so they know exactly what you’re going through.
They’re mentors and cheerleaders who also happen to understand the ins and outs of fertility—from navigating cycles to stress management and alternative ways you can optimize your body for conception.
“Five iuis, 6 Ivf’s, one FET baby and one surprise baby (yep, it’s real and happens), I was like, “I really want to be someone who helps people through this process,” — Heidi Brooks, Fertility Doula
Having a fertility doula in your corner can make a world of difference, especially when it comes to feeling confident about the decisions you are making along your fertility journey. Fertility doulas will work closely with you and your entire care team to make sure you are advocated for and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
If you’re considering additional support for your upcoming birth, but you’re not sure where to start, a birth doula might be just the expert you’re looking for. They do much more than coach mamas through contractions.
They can be there side-by-side with you during your entire pregnancy and all the way through the birth. Women bring on birth doulas at different points in their pregnancy, but a big part of a birth doula’s role is to create a relationship with you and your partner throughout the pregnancy while acting as a sounding board for fears, worries and questions regarding the birth.
During later stages of pregnancy, a birth doula will create a comprehensive birth plan or what we like to call birth preferences because things don’t always go to plan! They’ll educate you on all your options, from explaining how the birth will go and offering insight into pain management techniques that can be used during labor.
“I serve women by helping them feel heard, by listening to what they have to say and what their wishes are. Really making them think and educate themselves about the choices they have and putting that into words and then giving them a voice during the process.” — Joyce Havinga-Droop, Birth Doula
When you feel like labor has begun, your birth doula will typically come to your house to help you navigate the initial contractions and determine when you should head to the hospital; in some cases, they will meet you at the hospital instead. During the labor, the doula has three primary responsibilities; physical support, emotional support and providing information and advocacy.
Physical support covers everything from creating a calm birthing environment aromatherapy and a curated playlist to providing hot and cold relief, massages, counter pressure, helping lead breathing and relaxation exercises and ensuring you stay hydrated. When it comes to emotional support, your birth doula may provide a positive, comforting presence, cheering you on throughout labor and talking through concerns and worries as they arise. An essential part of their job is advocating on your behalf to the medical staff so that during the challenging parts of labor when it may be difficult to express your wishes, she can step in. Studies have shown that there’s actually a 39% decrease in C-section risk and 15% increase in spontaneous vaginal birth with women using a birth doula.
From navigating new sleep schedules to feeding times, caring for other family members and keeping the house in order—it can be a lot to handle when you’ve brought your babe home from the hospital. And sometimes, a little help can go a long way. That’s where a postpartum doula comes in. Not to be confused with a Newborn Care Specialist (aka Night Nurse) which takes care of the babe. The Postpartum Doula takes care of mom which ripples through to taking care of the whole family.
A big part of their role is teaching, educating the family and building their confidence in their new roles.
For those who don’t have family close by or want a non-judgemental person to step in for a little extra support, a postpartum doula might be just what you need to help you navigate your new normal or the adjustment of adding another baby to your home. They’ll even help with everything from laundry, feedings to helping the older siblings get comfortable in their new roles, preparing meals and so on. Postpartum doula Audelle Bodie says, “I help families welcoming newborns into their world, whether it’s their first baby or third; parenting from adoption, surrogacy or foster care. My role is to support, educate, and nurture the whole family during this transition. That looks different for each person and family.
Once you’ve decided to bring on a postpartum doula to help, they’ll sit down with you and your partner to identify your most pressing needs. From there, you can decide on a schedule that works for you and your family. You can have them come as little as a couple of times a month to as much as eight hours a day. Some even offer overnight care if needed!
No matter what step of your journey you’re on, there’s someone who can guide and support you along the way. And if you don’t think you would ever have time for a doula, think again. You can still have a doula and get the services you need virtually. We get the hassle of running from one appointment to the next while juggling everything else in between. By choosing to seek virtual services, our Providers can work around your schedule to find a time that works best for you. Plus, working together virtually can also cut down on fees that you’d typically have to pay for if you opted for in-person services.
Ready to find the doula for you? Start your search here.
When it comes to certified doulas, not all doulas are certified because there is no official licensing agency for doulas. At MyNestwell, we encourage you to verify certifications with your individual Provider. The accredited organizations that oversee doula training and provide certifications include, DONA International, Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) or The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA).
Still have questions if a doula is right for you? Connect with us and we’ll point you in the right direction.