Frequently Asked Questions About Doulas

"Continuous support by a doula during labor is a risk-free, low-cost method of reducing cesarean delivery rates that should be available to all."

- Susan K. McGrath, PhD & John H. Kennell, MD

What is a doula?
The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "one who serves." It is now used to refer to a trained and experienced non-medical professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during & just after birth. Doulas also provide emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. I am trained and certified by DONA International as a Birth Doula.

What are the benefits of having a doula?
Having a doula means that you and your partner/spouse, if present, have your own personal birth support person with you from start to finish. The nurses and doctors that will be in and out of the room are responsible for your clinical care and usually are not able to provide the consistent physical, emotional and informational support that birthing mothers need. Every birthing person deserves a doula. Having a doula at my first birth made a huge difference. I would never give birth without a doula!

What does a doula do?
A birth doula:

  • Recognizes birth as a key experience the birthing parent will remember all their life and assists with making it a positive experience.
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a birthing parent in labor and helps the partner to as well.
  • Assists the parent(s) in preparing and carrying out their plans for birth.
  • Stays with the birthing parent throughout the labor.
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the birthing parent get the information they need to make informed decisions.
  • Facilitates communication between the birthing parent, their partner and their clinical care providers (OB, Midwife, Nurses)
  • Perceives doula's role as nurturing and protecting the birthing parent's memory of the birth experience and keeping it positive.
  • Allows the partner/spouse to participate at their comfort level.

Is a doula a medical professional?
Doulas are not medical professionals. Doulas do not check blood pressure or fetal heart rates, do vaginal exams, check the cervix, administer or prescribe any medications or treatments. You will always be advised to check with your care provider regarding any medical concerns. Physicians, midwives and nurses are responsible for monitoring labor, assessing the medical condition of the mother and baby, and treating complications when they arise. Having a nursing education does not mean I will be functioning in the role of a nurse; I will be present solely as your doula during your birthing time in a non-medical capacity.

Will my insurance cover this?
Although it varies from one insurance provider to another, some insurance providers do cover/reimburse the cost of doula support, prenatal classes, postpartum support, and even pumps for lactating parents. If you would like more information we encourage you to contact your provider to review your coverage details and to read the handout on seeking insurance reimbursement for doula services. If you would like assistance in filing claims for reimbursement please let us know and we will provide you with the appropriate documents.  

If you are seeing Full Circle Women's Health for your prenatal care, I am on the list of approved doulas.

What about my partner?
"My [partner] is my left hand and my doula is my right."
- from Doulas Making a Difference. From the American Pregnancy Association: The role of the doula is never to take the place of the spouse or partner in labor, but to compliment and enhance their experience. Today, many spouses/partners are taking a more active role in the birth process, but some feel that this is a huge expectation and would rather be able to enjoy the delivery without having to stand in as labor coach. With a doula as a part of the birth team, a spouse/partner can do whatever they feel comfortable with at each moment. Doulas can encourage them to use comfort measures and can step in when they need a break. Having a doula allows them to be able to support their partner emotionally during labor and birth and also enjoy it themself without the pressure to remember everything they learned in childbirth class and every pregnancy book they read! Read one partner's perspective on doulas here and see a great video of some partners talking about doulas here

Can I still have a doula if I want an Epidural?
Yes, absolutely! Having doula support at your birth means that the doula is supporting you in getting what you want from your birthing experience. If you want an epidural, we will support you in your choice. If you don't, we will support you with that too. It's your birth, you make the choices that are right for you. It is our job to support you in your choices. Doulas work just as hard whether a birthing parent labors with or without an epidural. It is not our job to place judgment on your choices. 

Can I still have a doula if I plan on a hospital birth?
Most doulas attend hospital births. I know I do! Regardless of your choice of care provider, doula support is a great addition to anyone's birth support team. Many midwives and OB's across the country love doulas and recommend them to their patients as part of a well-rounded care team to fully support them. A large percentage of the births I've attended in the least decade have been hospital births in the NY, PA, NJ & CT.

What if I'm planning on a homebirth with a midwife?
Homebirth is a safe option for 90% of women with low-risk pregnancies when they are planned and attended by a trained professional such as a NYS Licensed Midwife. Parents birthing at home are more likely to have a completely natural birth with little to no interventions whatsoever. Even so, homebirthing families can still benefit from the consistent and caring support of a doula. Doulas generally arrive earlier in labor than your attending midwife and the midwife's assistant and can help you decide when it's time to call them to come. If Courtney is your midwife's assistant, you can still choose her as your doula. 

Can a doula support me at my Cesarean Birth?
Cesarean births happen every day and doula support is also helpful in these types of birth. There are many different ways that a doula can help to physically and emotionally support birthing parents and partners/spouses with both planned and unplanned cesarean births throughout pregnancy as well as during and following the birth. A Cesarean birth can still be beautiful and special. See our Birth Doula Services page for more information.

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