Mom Matters

What is a doula and what does a doula actually do?

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There are certain words that are never part of your daily vocab until you are pregnant. Letdown, milk drunk and doula to name a few. So what exactly is a doula? And more importantly, what does a doula do for pregnant moms?

Celebrity doula Carson Meyer, along with moms in our village who have been there, explain how vital a doula can be during all stages of pregnancy.  

Does your pregnancy plan involve a birth doula?

Pregnancy brings with it a whole lot of family planning. While you can’t always plan those midnight snack attacks, you can schedule doctor visits, pick out baby name names, and figure out which cheeses to avoid. Then there’s planning your labor and delivery, where you weigh decisions like choosing a home or hospital birth or having an epidural or not. Next, add to your list if a pregnancy doula is right for you and your plans are shaping up nicely. But before you write down doula in permanent ink on your list, let’s talk about what a doula does exactly. 

What is a doula and what does a doula do?

Carson Meyer, a DONA (Doulas Of North America) certified doula working in Los Angeles, California, says, “A birth doula is a trained professional who supports parents through pregnancy, birth, and the initial postpartum to help guide them through a healthy and satisfying transition to parenthood.” She goes on to say that a doula prepares clients by providing evidence-based information and resources so birthing parents can make empowered and informed choices for themselves and their babies.

I work with clients to help them make a “birth plan”. However, I prefer to call it the Birth Intentions because you can’t always plan birth.

Carson Meyer

Definition of doula

A doula is there to give you valuable information but also offer a gentle personal touch of encouragement. As you get more direct doula details, you’ll work together to craft a pregnancy, birth, and early parenting plan that best suits your needs. When it comes to creating a birth plan, Meyer says she prefers to call it “Birth Intentions” because you just can’t always plan a birth. Meyer says, “The Birth Intentions act as a roadmap for learning about one’s choices and communicating these choices and intentions to their provider.” 

What a doula does in the birthing room

Once you’ve set your Birth Intentions, the support your doula provides during your labor will be different for each mama. Meyer says this can include any number of things from massage to reiki, aromatherapy, guided meditation, hypnobirthing, and other comfort measures. A doula also acts as an advocate to ensure the birthing parents’ requests are honored and their voice is being heard. This way you can feel confident knowing someone is there for you while you focus on bringing your baby into the world. 

Is there a doula near me? One mom’s journey in finding a doula

Still not sure if a doula should be added to your checklist? Paola Parsons checked yes because she wanted someone to be her anchor during labor. “I felt like I needed a female energy to be there with me,” Parsons says. She knew she wanted to be as natural about her birthing process as possible and felt support from a doula would help her achieve that. Parsons’ husband was supportive of her choice and, in fact, Meyer reveals that “partners often find great comfort in having the support of a doula.”

When searching for a doula Parsons trusted, she didn’t have to look far, “My pre-natal yoga instructor happened to be a doula as well,” Parsons says. This is why Meyer suggests word-of-mouth as a great place to start in your doula search and she suggests, “Ask people in your community; friends, midwives, acupuncturists, yoga teachers, lactation consultants, etc.” Meyer also recommends an in-person or virtual interview “to be sure you have a good feel for their approach.”

Doula vs midwife?

As you do more doula research, you might begin to wonder: What is the difference is between a doula and a midwife? “A doula offers non-medical support, advocacy, and education, whereas a midwife is a trained birth professional who oversees the medical aspects of the birth process,” Meyer explains. Your doula is there working with your midwife or OB/GYN on your behalf. “We are all a part of the birth team but I work independently for my clients. We serve very different roles and purposes,” Meyer continues. “In fact, in a low-risk pregnancy, having a midwife and a doula can result in a lower likelihood of cesarean and better birth outcomes for mom and baby.” 

For Parsons, having a doula for her first labor and delivery experience was invaluable and she says, “Having this touchstone to ask, ‘What do you think?’ was a little bit of a north star to help you through it.” Parsons was happy with her doula experience and wouldn’t change it, but there are some reasons parents feel a doula isn’t right for their journey. 

Can your husband be your doula? 

Kam had her birth plan in place and says, “I really wanted to have a vaginal birth if possible without an epidural. No drugs.” So, the thought of having a doula’s help and support during this process was definitely appealing. Kam researched her doula options and found several that might be a good match. But when she shared her plans with her husband, he jumped at the chance to be her one and only “doula.” 

The couple discussed their options and Kam says, “My husband said he really wanted to support me in an amazing moment.” So, they chose to keep the experience to only the two of them. Once Kam went into labor, she reveals her husband might have had some classic partner panic moments, but she was grateful he was there. “That was one of the most magical things for me,” Kam says of her labor. Keeping your labor and delivery intimate and private can be one reason a doula may not be your best choice. 

How much do doulas get paid?

There is an expense to consider when hiring a doula and you may be wondering what is a doula’s salary. Some insurance companies may cover some of this cost, but all companies are different so check with yours regarding coverage. Also, some doulas operate on a sliding scale and can negotiate a price based on what clients can afford. “Birth Doula rates can vary depending on location, experience, and the services offered. In Los Angeles, doula services can vary between $1000-$6000.” Meyers says. “There are organizations such as The Joy In Birthing Foundation that help match low income families with affordable or volunteer doula care.”

Do you need a doula?

So, how are you feeling? Are you ready to answer the question: Do I need a doula? Both Parsons and Kam agree that a doula can definitely help first-time mamas by calming nerves and building confidence. Kam says having someone by your side that can guide you through the process is worth it.

Now that you know all a doula does, you can decide whether or not they are a necessary addition to your baby plan. If your answer is “yes,” the good news is they’ll help you out with a lot of the planning that’s to come. We can’t think of anything NOT good about having a woman by your side to help you through all of the birth, labor and postpartum plans, especially someone with the experience that could make the whole journey just a little bit easier.

About doula Carson Meyer and her doula training

Carson Meyer began her doula journey when she saw the documentary “The Business of Being Born.” She says she was moved to tears by the sheer strength of the female body and the triumphant emotional transformation of the mother. She attended New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study where she pursued studies in child development, art therapy, and complementary medicine. Carson returned to Los Angeles and trained as a doula with training from Bini Birth founder and DONA President Paula Markel. She offers a 12-week Zoom prenatal course to help facilitate community and a strong support system for mothers. Carson recently started an all-natural and sustainable skincare line called C & The Moon. ​

When asked if Meyer does anything different when working as a doula for celebrity parents, she says, “Nope! Birth is birth.”

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.