When it comes to pregnancy and labor, there’s no shortage of things to learn about and consider! There’s also no shortage of unsolicited advice, people wanting to touch your belly and sometimes share their stories with you – the good, the bad and the ugly. It can be a little overwhelming! One of the reasons that I became a childbirth educator and doula was to help women sift through all of the information out there and to listen for what resonates for them. I’m here to share more about what a doula is, what we do and how to go about choosing one for your birth.

What is a doula? 

A doula can be described a few different ways, but most commonly you hear about birth doulas, who are trained professionals who provide emotional and physical support, advice and information to women before, during and after childbirth. There are also full spectrum doulas who support different outcomes of pregnancy including loss of pregnancy, stillbirth and abortion. And, there are postpartum doulas, who focus specifically on supporting Mom and family during the postpartum period. We’ll focus on birth doulas for this conversation. 

What does a doula do? 

There are 4 main “pillars of support” that doulas provide to their clients. We provide emotional, physical, and informational support, along with advocacy. Each individual doula may also provide additional services or support based on training, personal experience and more. 

Here is a summary of the 4 pillars of support: 

The 4 Pillars of Support 

Emotional support is just what it sounds like – reminding Mama of what a flippin’ rockstar she is leading up to labor and during. There are many things to think about in those last months/weeks of pregnancy, and it can be overwhelming. We can be the voice of reason, the sounding board, the comforting presence to help you move through those times with compassion and confidence. We are the ones cheering you on when things get tough during labor, providing you with a smile, a hug, a shoulder, sometimes wiping your tears away and affirming just how amazing you’re doing. 

Physical support is all the hip-squeezing, counter pressure back support, comfort measure bringing, rotating on the peanut ball goodness (and more) that you can take! We are there to ensure that you use your tools during labor, to help encourage you to move into positions that keep labor going, to help your husband grab on to your hips and squeeze (if he and you want him to) and to ensure that you’re comfortable and moving every 30ish minutes after an epidural. And a whole lot more magic, too. 

Informational or educational support, which as a childbirth educator and doula is totally my jam, is helping Mama and Dad along the way to make informed and educated decisions along your journey. To me this is one of THE most important ways to support your growing family – to know and understand your options as choices arise, and to feel as confident in those choices as possible. You will never forget the day you meet your baby. I am so passionate about helping my clients have a positive experience by being informed and supported in listening to your intuition and inner guidance to help you make the choices you feel are right for you and your family. 

This leads to the last pillar, which is the advocacy aspect. So, with the informational support we offer, we support you in making choices that are aligned with your goals. During your labor, we can help to remind you if there is something presented in your care plan or during labor that strays from that. As long as there is time to discuss and think about your options (and not an emergency situation), we’ll do our best to encourage that and make that possible.

I want to be sure to clarify something, as I think this is where there’s a common misconception about doulas. 

Doulas support women who are not only birthing in birth centers and home births, but we also support women birthing in hospitals. We support women who are intending unmedicated births and we support women who are choosing medicated births as well.

How do you choose a doula for your birth? 

I’ll list a few things below to help you find the right doula for you, but the first thing I want to say is this: Trust.Your.Gut. When you meet with a potential doula, if you have that feeling inside that says, “she’s the one” – go with it. Your intuition will guide you, I promise!

Here are some things to consider when choosing a doula:

  • Ask around for referrals from local area birth professionals such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists
  • Ask your friends! They may be able to point you in the direction of someone they used or know of, and remember, everyone is different. If someone worked for them, and doesn’t for you, that’s ok! They will bring you that much closer to the doula who’s right for you.
  • Check out resources such as local birth professional chapters, doulamatch.net and other similar sites
  • Be sure to interview a few doulas, be it on the phone or in person. Most doulas will offer a free consultation over coffee, or even at your home. Here are some questions you can ask them:
    • Why did you become a doula?
    • How will you help me discover my birth goals and preferences?
    • What is your view or philosophy around birth? 
    • Certifications, number of births attended, etc
    • What’s included in your birth doula package? ie number of meetings, number of hours covered during labor, is there a backup doula involved? 

Pay attention to how the doula makes you feel during your interview. Do you feel comfortable with her? Does she answer your questions and leave you feeling heard and understood? How your interview goes can be a great indicator of how your time together will go moving forward. 

In summary, hiring a birth doula will help to greatly reduce fear and anxiety leading up to and during birth; for both you and your partner. Every woman deserves to have a positive and empowered birth experience and having a doula on your team can help to make that possible. I wish you an empowered birth and beginning to your sweet family!  

Dawn Herring is the owner and founder of Empowered Births and Beginnings and leads the popular Empowered Birth Series at Thank You Mama in St. Pete, FL. It is her heart’s work to help women connect to their badassery & intuition so they can rock their birth from power vs. fear. When she’s not leading birth classes or attending births, she’s hanging out with her hubby and kiddos who were the ones that inspired this journey to birth work for her, and her geriatric one-eyed pitbull. She loves the color purple, baking and eating cupcakes, being outdoors in nature, and anything that makes her laugh.



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