What Is A Birth Doula?

Birth is the most simple and, yet, complicated ordeal a woman can endure. Egg is inseminated with sperm, baby grows, and the kid comes out. Easy, right?


There is so much that goes on with being pregnant. Leaving what happens to our bodies during pregnancy aside, all the choices, baby crap to buy, and medical jargon make it tough enough on people who really have no idea what to expect. So, even with all that aside, let’s just talk about getting the kid out. Yikes!

Should I get induced?

There really is such thing as a designer baby?

What’s an epidural?

My cervix is gonna get HOW big?

These are questions, among other thousands of questions, that all need to be answered relatively quickly. So we uneducated few need guidance. Ideally, mothers will have either a doctor or a certified nurse midwife attending their birth. Both are medically trained and certified.

I am choosing to have a doctor at my birth. Over the course of my pregnancy, like most women, I had a monthly appointment, then it was twice a month, and now it’s weekly appointments with her.
She has kept her eye on my weight, blood pressure, overall health, and the health of my tiny baby. Best of all, she has given me great advice both medically and personally. My doctor answered every question I had and gave me every confidence in my choices for my birth plan. In addition to choosing either a doctor or a midwife, parents can look into hiring a doula.

When people ask me what a doula is, I tell them that they are a “bonus pack.”

They’re kind of like that extra city you can download to play in Sim City. They aren’t the full game, but they make the actual game that much cooler. Let me explain.

What is a Birth Doula? What does a doula do? What is the experience like for the pregnant mother and baby? Read how women all over the world give the gift of compassion, love, guidance, and friendship to another new mom.

There are two types of doulas, a birth doula and a postpardum doula. Some doulas are certified, and others are not, and either way – they would not take the place of your primary pregnancy caregiver. Unlike your caregiver, doulas are rarely, if ever, covered by your insurance (mine wouldn’t cover one).

Birth doulas generally meet with you and your partner twice before your due date, spend your labor and entire birth with you, and then visit once after the baby is born. They are available through phone or email for questions before you give birth, and are always willing to give advice if needed.

The average cost for a doula in the state of Rhode Island is $800.00 – $1,000.00.

Most have a doula partner or partners who would serve as their backup if they were unable to attend your birth. Some birth doulas even work in tandem with their partners, and have twelve hour shifts.

A birth doula would get to know how you and your partner envision the birth of your tiny baby. Your hopes, your fears, your preferences on music or lighting, and any other topics that would be discussed in your birth plan or birth guide.

Me? I care about someone helping me sneak in snacks for labor, getting me in an out of a shower or tub, and letting my husband know he might be better off watching a movie on the iPad for an hour or so.

In addition to just being plain old awesome, they can help inform you of possible decisions. They will also remind caregivers and nurses about your birth goals.

For example, would you like to have a choice about your membranes being broken? Well, sometimes. But how do you know?

A doula could not only explain what this means to you, but will also help make sure your practitioner doesn’t do anything without your consent. She may also help by massaging you during labor, reminding you to drink, or helping your partner understand that the crazy goat-like sounds you are making are perfectly normal.

A birth doula is with you the entire time during your labor, whereas doctors and midwives generally aren’t. A doctor will check up on you a few times to see your progress, and then at the end for the final push. Aside from that, you are tended to by labor nurses.

From what I’ve heard, most nurses are amazing and lovely. Honestly, nurses have my utmost respect because they are they people who have to satisfy everyone: the doctor, the patient, and inexorably, the hospital.

The problem is that, in most cases, you don’t meet them until that day. If you chose to have a doula, you would have already established a relationship with her. Also, you are the one and only person she attends to, whereas nurses have other patients.

After your tiny baby arrives, a birth doula will stay for an hour or so to make sure mom and baby are happy and comfortable. They may help take photos of you and your new tiny family, or even help give breastfeeding tips.

Some people choose to have their mother, a sister, or a friend join them in the birthing process. Others want this special event soli for the parents of the tiny baby. And others, choose to have an experienced doula join them during birth.

My hubby and I learned about birth doulas at a DoRI, Doulas of Rhode Island, meet and greet. They generally host one of these free events once a month. There, parents are invited to watch an informative video, ask questions, and then meet several doulas.

For a list of Rhode Island based birth doulas, click this link. There you will find bios, as well as pictures and contact information for the women. If you’re thinking about hiring a doula, interview a few. Make sure you and your partner are comfortable with them, and that they fully understand and support your birth goals.

UPDATE 2/15/16: I hired Kim McNiece, from Blessed Beginnings RI for both of my births. She was gentle, kind, and helped me through a 25 hour labor with my first baby, and a super quick crazy one hour birth with my second baby.

Do you think having a birth doula would be/or would have been useful in birth?

If you enjoyed this post – I’d also recommend your checking out some of my other popular pregnancy and birth posts, like What is a Postpartum Doula? , How To Make Padsicles
You can find ALL of my pregnancy related posts by clicking here

Thanks so much for visiting — if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave them below πŸ™‚ I take the time to read and respond to each one. 

Talk soon, friends!


  1. Mary Larsen


    Please excuse any typos, this email was sent through my iPhone.

  2. Mary! SO happy to see you talking about doulas here!! And I'm thrilled you've found, and mentioned DoRI (Doulas of RI http://www.doulasri.org) here, too! Our next Meet the Doula Night event is Monday, April 1 at Rochambeau Library – great chance to meet many doulas at once and to learn more about both birth and postpartum doulas.

    Also, many insurance companies now ARE covering doulas. Often you get declined the first go around and then with letters of support, studies and information showing the benefits of doula care, many couples are receiving third party reimbursements.

    I hope you decided to hire a doula – no matter what kind of birth you envision, labors take their own individual courses and every woman and family deserves the continuous labor support, encouragement and caring of a trained doula!

    Happy Birthing! Can't wait to hear about the big day ….!

  3. πŸ™‚ Thanks Melissa! I'm scaling back on the number of births I'm taking right now – trying to do more writing – but happy I've been able to share something about doulas with you!

  4. Hi Leah,
    We have decided to hire one (post to come soon!) I'm delighted to hear that some insurance companies are now covering the cost of a doula. Do you have any recommendations about how I could try to look into that further? We have BCBS.
    Thanks so much!

  5. I wish I had hired a doula or at least a midwife. Then I would have known not to let them induce me and ended up with c-section. I'm sure you'll do fine!!

  6. I'm excited for you, Mary. I wish I had known about doulas when my babies were born. I had a very challenging delivery with my first child and a doula would have been WONDERFUL. I'm so glad you are educating moms-to-be right now!

  7. I LOVED Kim and Erica at Blessed Beginnings- They were amazing through my extremely long labor and were the reason I did not end up in the OR! I had a friend who is also a PPDoula who was wonderful to me in the weeks following Addie's birth. I cannot recommend have a doula more!

  8. I would never give birth without my doula, if I can help it:) She was incredible and made my birth dreams of having my son intervention free a success. I really believe I would have ended up having an emergency C if she hadn't been there with us, helping my husband and I every step of the way. She has become a true friend. I couldn't recommend a doula more.

  9. I need to look them up but can get you the diagnosis/CPT codes. Your doula, too, should be able to help guide you through the process and provide letters and supporting documentation to help your case.

  10. I had a doula and a midwife for both of my children's births. They are such a great help, especially if you want to go without the drugs. I highly recommend! πŸ™‚

  11. Me, too, Jackie – the more expectant families know, the more options they have! Owning your own birth – doing your homework is empowering!

  12. Kim and Erica are wonderful women and doulas! πŸ™‚ So funny how our lives cross over in different ways, Chelley!

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