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All About Birth Doulas

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 3 views
by Terri Babin

This page will provide you with everything you need to know about what a birth doula is, how to find one in your area, and even how to become a birth doula if you feel inclined to do so!

Birth Doula F.A.Q.’s

1. What is a birth doula?

A birth doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth.

2. Where does the word “doula” come from?

The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “Woman’s servant.” Throughout history and in much of the world today, a cadre of women support a woman through labor and birth, giving back rubs and providing continuous emotional support. Like their historical counterparts, birth doulas know how to help a woman in labor feel better.

3. What effects does the presence of a doula have on birth outcomes?

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:

  • tends to result in shorter labors with fewer
  • reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth
  • reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing
    drug), forceps or vacuum extraction
  • reduces the requests for pain medication and
    epidurals, as well as the incidence of cesareans

4. What effects does the presence of a doula have on the mother?

When a doula is present during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression.

5. What effects do the presence of doulas have on babies?

Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.

6. How can I find a doula in my area?

-Use the Doula Locater at

-Ask your childbirth educator or midwife for a referral

-Do a google search for birth doulas or doula groups in your area, many doulas and doula groups have personal websites. Here in San Diego, we have as well as several others.

-See additional doula related websites below.

7. How do doulas practice?

Doulas practice in three ways: privately hired directly by clients, as hospital employees, and as volunteers in community or hospital programs.

8. Does a doula replace nursing staff?

No. Doulas do not replace nurses or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals.

9. Does a doula make decisions on my behalf?

A doula does not make decisions for clients or intervene in their clinical care. She provides informational and emotional support, while respecting a woman’s decisions.

10. Will a doula make my partner feel unnecessary?

No, a doula is supportive to both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable.

11. How much does a birth doula cost?

The average doula charges between $500-$1,000 depending on experience, services offered and additional areas of expertise. This fee usually includes a package with several prenatal visits, 24 hour phone support, their presence for the duration of your labor/delivery and a postpartum visit within the first week after your baby is born. Some doulas are also massage therapists, acupuncturists, lactation consults, RN’s etc., doulas with additional areas of expertise are wonderful, but their fees can be significantly higher.

12. What if I want to have a doula, but cannot afford one?

There are doulas out there that love their work so much they are willing to offer it on a volunteer basis, I know, because I am one of those doulas. I am not sure of the best way to find a trained/certified volunteer doula, but you could try searching your local Craig’s List, posting a wanted ad on Craig’s List, doing a google search for volunteer doulas in your area, or simply just ask around. There are some hospitals that offer volunteer doulas to all patients, such as UCSD Medical Center in San Diego, if your hospital offers these services by all means, take advantage! If you are a military family, there is an organization called “Operation Special Delivery” with doulas that volunteer their services to active duty military families, especially if your husband will be deployed during your due date. Another way to find a low or no cost doula is by contacting the organizations that train/certify doulas such as (others listed below) and ask for a list of doulas who have recently completed their training, but are still working towards certification (you may have to get the name of your local doula trainer and contact her for the list of doulas she recently trained). Most doulas have to attend a number of births before they may get certified, these doulas are often eager to volunteer at births in exchange for the experience they will gain.

How Can I Become A Trained/Certified Birth Doula?

Becoming a birth doula was one of the best and most rewarding decisions I’ve made. I cannot express through words the pure joy I have experienced at each and every one of the 39 births I’ve had the honor of attending throughout my career as a doula. Although most of my “work” as a doula is predominently volunteering to help teen moms and military families at the present time, you can have a very successful and lucritive doula business. To give you an idea of the income potential, the average doula charges anywhere from $500-$1,000+ per birth, depending on her experience, services offered and additional areas of expertise (a doula who is also a massage therapist is obviously going to charge more). A doula can attend about 2 births per month on her own, and up to 8 births per month if she is working with a group of doulas that provide eachother “back up” in the event that 2 or more of her clients go into labor at the same time.

The training to become a doula is fairly inexpensive, and useually consists of an intense 2 or 3 day training course, followed by a number of additional requirements if you wish to become “certified”. For more information about become a birth doula go to and/or visit the other websites listed below.

National Birth Doula Organizations

If you have any further questions about birth doulas, or are a birth doula and wish to be added to the upcoming birth doula directory soon to be added to this page please email [email protected] .  

Terri Babin is an eco-crazy, pr-friendly blogging mom of four who is on a quest to raise her children in a natural, nurturing way that respects Mother Earth.  Visit her at

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