What is a Doula, and Why do You Need One?

What is a Doula, and Why do You Need One?

- in Ages & Stages, Health, Parenting
Doulas in Cleveland, Ohio

Doula services are on the rise for millennial moms, according to a recent Washington Post article that stated the proportion of American women who reported using doulas for birth doubled to 6 percent in 2013 from 3 percent in 2006, citing data from the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Lisa Falkenstein, from the Nurtured Foundation Doula Services, explains what a doula is, and why you need one.  

What services can a doula perform for expecting mothers?

A doula’s job is to provide unconditional support so that the birthing mother may feel confident, prepared and ready to become a mom. Most birth doula packages include prenatal visits, availability via phone/email to answer questions, and providing resources, in-person labor support, and immediate postpartum support. Many birth doulas also offer additional services including childbirth education, breastfeeding support and placenta encapsulation.

During prenatal meetings your doula should discuss with you the many choices and options you have during labor and delivery, as well as those immediately postpartum to assist you in constructing a birth plan. They also go over what to look for during the early signs of labor, when it is the appropriate time to contact the doula, and when to head to the hospital.  

Which of these services are something a doctor can not provide?

Although a good doctor or midwife is certainly capable of providing labor support, due to time constraints and their patient workload, they may just not be able to do everything they’d like to for every patient they have. They are primarily focusing on the birthing mother’s clinical needs, and will not usually be with you while you are in labor. Your doula is with you for the entire labor/birth process, and gets to know the client and family. That developed relationship goes a long way in supporting the birthing experience.

What are the benefits of having a doula?

The benefits of having a doula are numerous. Evidencebasedbirth.com‘s research has found, that overall, people who received continuous support during labor experienced:

  • A 25 percent to 39 percent decrease in the risk of having a Cesarean section
  • An 8 percent to 15 percent increase in the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal birth
  • A 10 percent decrease in the use of any pain medications during labor
  • A 31 percent decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with your childbirth experience
  • Shorter labors by about 41 minutes, on average
  • A 38 percent decrease in the risk of your baby having a low Apgar score

Aside from these evidence-based ways that it is helpful to have continuous labor support, a doula adds an extra layer of support and advocacy for your wishes.

What are some common misconceptions about doulas?

One of the biggest misconceptions doulas encounter is that we will provide medical care, or that the term “doula” is synonymous with midwife. Midwives provide medical care, may be able to prescribe certain medications and are medically trained. Doulas are not medically trained and are completely focused on providing non-medical information and support.  

Another common misconception is that a birth doula will act as a “buffer” between the birthing parent and doctor. A good birth doula does not communicate in a client’s stead. Rather, they work together with their care providers to give them one cohesive team.

The last misconception is that birth doulas only support unmedicated “natural” births. This is not true! All birth is natural. Good doulas are trained and experienced in supporting all types of birth.

Is there anything else you would like to add about being a doula?

A professional doula does not take the place of a partner or husband. She looks for ways to include the partner and support the couple, as a unit. Doulas are part of your birth team and not a replacement for medical care or advice. A good doula experience does not always end when that beautiful baby takes his or her first gasp of air. After all, the baby has to come home with you sometime — that’s where the fun begins!


Cleveland-based Nurtured Foundation Doula Services offers birth doulas, postpartum doulas, night doulas (commonly referred to as night nannies or baby nurses), placenta encapsulation, in-home lactation support, belly binding and in-home postpartum and prenatal massage. It also offers private breastfeeding classes, including back to work preparation, in the comfort of the client’s own home. Nurtured Foundation serves dozens of communities throughout Northeast Ohio.

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