What is the Role of a Doula?

What is the Role of a Doula?

August 1, 2023

Doulas can play an important role in birth but not everyone is familiar with what exactly they do for the couple and how they can support everyone involved. For those who want to know more about this wonderful role, here’s our summary of the beautiful role of a doula. 

What Does a Doula Do?

In short, the primary role of a doula is to act as an advocate for the mother, encouraging her through the challenges encountered throughout the experience. 

There are two common types of birth doula services:

  1. Birth doulas: A birth doula will help you prepare for labor/delivery, and stay with you while you labor and give birth. They will act as your advocate through birth and help you fulfill specific details you might have outlined for your desired birth experience. The goal of a doula is to help a Mama navigate the birth with as much feeling of safety and positivity as possible – whether it’s a vaginal birth or a cesarean. Additionally, the doula will use various strategies, techniques, and positions to help keep you as comfortable and supported as possible throughout the process. Think: education about what is happening and what comes next, key considerations when there are decisions to be made throughout the birth process, labor position suggestions, gentle massage, talking through difficult times, providing emotional and physical support, helping your birth partner get involved, and more. Doula presence has been shown to help shorten the duration of labor, reduce medical interventions, and increase the participation of the birthing parent in choice regarding care.
  2. Postpartum doulas: A postpartum doula is there to assist you and the baby in the early weeks after birth. They may help both parents feel more comfortable with baby care, watch the baby overnight to help parents get rest, assist with lactation education and refer as needed for additional lactation guidance, and provide general support such as light household tasks and food preparation. They can also be a key eye into how you are doing mentally and emotionally with the transition of adding a baby into the family and may be able to guide you to speak with a professional earlier than you might think of it yourself.
  3. Other types of doulas: include sibling doulas (specializing in care for the older sibling), and death doulas (separate from the childbirth realm, helping with end-of-life and family transitions).


What is Training Like?

  1. Doulas do not have to be certified to practice. However, there are a number of certifying bodies.
  2. Trained doulas have evidence-based training in providing support. Through certification organizations (E.g. DONA International, Cornerstone, and many others), they have standards of practice, a code of ethics, and recertification requirements.
  3. What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
  4. Doulas’ primary purpose is to support. They are not licensed to perform any kind of medical intervention or assessment, while midwives are clinically licensed providers and play the hands-on role during birth.. Midwives can be in charge of your care and focus on the safe delivery of your baby; doulas can help make sure you are maximally supported throughout that time and be there for contraction-to-contraction support.
  5. Some doulas may go through additional training to be more prepared for potential challenges such as a mother attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). 


How Do I Find a Doula?

There are a number of different resources to find doulas, so this is not an exhaustive list. 

  1. Check out the local doula website through the Treasure Valley Doulas:  https://www.treasurevalleydoulas.com/ 
  2. Check out the national doula listing site Doula Match to be able to search based on your due date and price range.  https://doulamatch.net/
  3. You can also go to the website for doula certification programs and search their list of providers that have completed their certification program.
  4. Ask your providers (especially your pelvic PT!), your friends, your prenatal yoga teacher, or search online!


How Can Physical Therapy and Doula Support Complement Each Other?

  1. Doulas can assist you in developing a birth plan, and use the findings from the physical therapy assessment to recommend certain labor positions or strategies to help with physical support through labor. 
  2. Doulas can come to a PT visit with you!
  3. We work toward the common goal of making you feel empowered, educated, safe, and supported and giving you all the tools you may want going into the major event of birth.


If you have more questions about how a doula may be helpful for you in your upcoming birth, we encourage you to reach out to Treasure Valley Doulas and connect with their leadership team for more networking details and information sessions they hold for the community. 


If you’re a doula, mark your calendars for August 26th, 2023. We’re offering Push Prep for Providers training (follow link for more details and to register!). 

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