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What's a birth doula?

See this video explanation or read answer below. This video also details the role and benefits of a postpartum doula.


Short answer: A labor support (birth) doula accompanies individuals/couples in labor to help ensure a safe and satisfying birth experience.


Longer answer: Birth doulas provide emotional, physical, strategic, spiritual & informational support (or any kind of support you need, really!). As needed, they will act as a kind of patient advocate, providing communication & advocacy with your clinical care team to make sure that you have the information needed to make informed decisions as they arise in labor for the safest, most respectful, satisfying and healthy birth possible. A doula offers a normalizing, calming presence for you and your partner (if applicable), similar to a field guide or day-of wedding coordinator, helping you feel as calm and confident as possible and not rush to your birth place (i.e. for those eventually planning to transfer to a hospital or birthing center). Doulas make strategic suggestions to help labor progress, and help with relaxation, massage, positioning as well as other techniques for your comfort. For couples who have decided it's a good fit for partner to provide support, a doula is there to support both of you (not to replace you, unless you want or need to be replaced!) -- to provide tips, to swap out with as needed, to explain things that might be happening, to help partner also remember to nap, eat, and drink, and more. An independent doula works for you (and your partner, if applicable), not for your caregiver or hospital.


What are the benefits of having birth doula support?

See above. Also, studies show a doula’s presence during labor and delivery produces better birth outcomes.


A few of the specific benefits (ina addiiton to the previous answer) are:

  • Reduced anxiety/depression

  • Shorter labors

  • Fewer pain medication requests

  • Lower cesarean section rates

  • Increased parenting confidence & birth satisfaction


Source: Study by Klaus and Kennell, 2002.​

What does a birth doula package include?

This varies from doula to doula since each doula in our collective is autonomous (i.e. we don't control contractual terms), so we recommend inquiring when you interview to learn about each doula's offerings to help you consider. One example of what one might generally expect to receive in your package:

  • Prenatal support from the time of hiring until labor

  • On-call 24/7 from your 37th week of pregnancy until the birth of your baby

  • 1-2 prenatal consults to explore and clarify your birth preferences and discuss how your doula can best provide support to you (and partner, if applicable)

  • Support during your labor and delivery, providing emotional, strategic (both to help labor progress and help you advocate for yourself), & informational support

  • Support for 1-2 hrs after the birth to assist with transition and breastfeeding

  • One optional postpartum meeting in the weeks following birth

Does insurance cover doula services?


While it's uncommon for insurance to cover doula services at this time (except for insurer Carrot), we recommend you contact your insurance carrier to see if -- or under what circumstances -- they cover or reimburse for doula services.  Sometimes if someone has a specific medical condition, a letter from your care provider can convince insurance to cover partially or fully if they otherwise don't. We are happy to fill out any paperwork needed by your carrier for coverage and will provide you with an official receipt to submit upon request; please provide us with your insurance's specifications (CPT code, ICD-10/diagnosis code, and any other details they require).


IMPORTANT: Some insurance companies will provide a form and may require certain documentation from the doula such as proof of certification and/or proof of liability insurance. As you're interviewing doulas please check with them when interviewing (before hiring) to be sure whomever you want to hire can provide the documentation you need if reimbursement is a priority for you.

Doula services are eligible for reimbursement with flexible spending accounts (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA), and health reimbursement accounts (HRA) with a letter of medical necessity which you can request from your medical provider (OB or midwife). They are not eligible for reimbursement with dependent care flexible spending accounts and limited-purpose flexible spending accounts (LPFSA).

What should I ask a doula in an interview?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What led you to become a doula?

  • Tell me about your experience, training and/or certification(s) (if applicable).

  • Do you have specific specialties/modalities?

  • What’s your fee and what does it cover? Refund policy?

  • How many clients do you take on per month?

  • Will you have a backup arrangement? If so, will I be able to meet the backup and will they have comparable experience? How often have you needed to use backup?

  • If it’s a doula partnership, ask about the on-call structure.

  • Have you worked with my OB/midwife? (If you have, what’s your opinion and how do you get

    along with them?)

  • Have you worked at my birthing location/setting?

  • What’s your communication approach in labor? (Do you advocate for me directly to the staff or make suggestions to me/my partner on how to advocate for ourselves?)

  • What happens if I need either a scheduled cesarean or if my labor goes in such a way that I need a cesarean?

  • When do you join me in labor?

  • What do we do in our prenatals?

  • How do you involve my partner (if applicable)?

  • How do you best like to communicate (phone/text/email, times of day, etc.)

  • What pain coping techniques/comfort measures do you find yourself using most with your clients? (and you have a specific preference/need, ask about this)

  • Do all of your clients have unmedicated births? How do you feel about pain medications?

  • Also, think about any special, personal needs you might have – e.g. do you need a doula who speaks a specific language or is well-versed in specific cultural or religious rituals surrounding pregnancy, birth, postpartum?

  • Would any of your previous clients be willing to chat with me for a reference?

During & after interview, consider:

  • Do I feel comfortable around this person – comfortable enough to be with in a completely vulnerable state?

  • Does the doula have the kind of energy/approach I think will help me through labor?

  • Does the doula communicate and listen well?

  • Will this doula support my choices or do they have their own agenda?

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