What is a doula?

What is a Doula?

4 min read

There are a lot of investments to make when you’re expecting and some decisions are easier than others. But if you know someone who’s hired a doula, chances are you’ve also heard them say it was the best investment they made in their pregnancy or postpartum. But, what is a doula? Why should you get one? And what *exactly* can they help you with? Read on to discover why a doula might be the best support you can get through pregnancy and postpartum.

So, what is a doula? A doula is a non-medical professional who helps to guide a person through their pregnancy and often into early postpartum. They provide emotional and hands-on support before, during, and after birth, including everything from labor education to sleep guidance to lactation advice. 

What does a doula do?

Different types of doulas can offer different levels and timing of support, depending on what you think you might most benefit from.

Birth Doulas:

Birth doulas offer support and advocacy during childbirth. From prenatal education (for pregnant folks and their partners) to labor companionship, they serve as guardians of birthing preferences, providing holistic care tailored to individual needs. They usually offer a prenatal visit to build out your birth plan and accompany you to your birth whether at home or in the hospital. During labor and delivery, they can make sure your wishes are being honored, and that things are being communicated to you clearly, and can otherwise act as confidante and coach throughout the experience.

Postpartum Doulas:

Postpartum doulas offer help beyond childbirth, guiding new parents through the early days of parenthood. They can help navigate things like nursing concerns, sleep help, and context and education about your healing journey. Postpartum doulas can provide comprehensive care tailored to the unique needs of your family,  often provide support in shifts where you most need it (either day or night—hi, sleep support!), and often do some light housekeeping, cooking, and laundry. 

Wait, so what’s a night nurse?

Typically, a night nurse is more focused than a postpartum doula—they are there to tend to the baby while you, the parent, get some much-needed sleep. The duties can overlap; both night nurses and doulas may help with feeding and light housework and are committed to aiding in that early adjustment period.

Full Spectrum Doulas:

Full-spectrum doulas offer support across pregnancy, birth, loss, and beyond. Whether navigating fertility challenges, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, or adoption, full-spectrum doulas provide support and advocacy, empowering individuals to navigate their reproductive journey with dignity and resilience. If you’re hoping to maintain your doula relationship across fertility treatment through to postpartum, a full-spectrum doula is likely what you’re looking for.

What’s the difference between a midwife and a doula?

When you become pregnant, you’ll likely decide between a midwife or an OB/GYN to be your primary caregiver during this time. Midwives and OBs provide a similar role—ensuring a healthy pregnancy and delivery—and the decision usually comes down to personal preference, though it might be necessary to opt for an OB if you have a higher-risk pregnancy. 

A doula is support to be considered in addition to your OB/GYN or midwife. Doulas offers non-medical, emotional, and physical support to individuals throughout pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period, but they are not medical professionals. Their support often includes a more on-call experience than what you’ll receive from your OB and possibly even your midwife.

Are doulas regulated?

Doulas are not regulated (in both Canada and the U.S.). This means you’ll need to do some vetting to ensure the care you’re receiving meets your standards and expectations. Although there isn’t regulation, you’ll often many doulas will seek certification on their own or, if they’re part of a larger doula group or network, may have medical professionals as part of their advisory team. Most do have some sort of training and certification, but the profession as a whole is not regulated. Make sure you ask your doulas for their credentials and training (like CPR-C) if this is important to you. Or you can hire a doula through an agency like Brood, who does the legwork for you.

How much do doulas cost?

Because there is a lack of regulation, doula pricing isn’t super straightforward. And, it depends on your needs, the length of time you’re hoping to use their services, and their company structure. Because of this, there’s a huge range. Expect pricing to start at $600 (for a pre- and post-natal visit and attendance at the birth) for a birth doula and to go up from there. It’s not unusual for this support to cost between $800 to $3,000.

Are doulas covered by insurance?

Unfortunately, doulas are not typically covered by insurance. You can always try to seek reimbursement or see if your work benefits or spending accounts will cover part of the cost (and in some states, you can be reimbursed for certified doula services, at least partially), but plan to pay for this service out of pocket. Adding doula services to your baby registry is another way to help mitigate the cost.

How do you find a doula?

Like many services, recommendations from friends and family tend to be a popular way to find a doula that makes sense for you and your needs. Don't hesitate to interview a few candidates before making your choice—this person will be intimately involved in your pregnancy and postpartum, you want someone you're comfortable with. You can also ask your care team (your OB or midwife may have people they know, trust, and have worked with before), or organizations like DONA International. And finally, opting for an agency like Brood, to match you with someone on their own roster and can help streamline the hiring and payment process.

This post was written in collaboration with Brood, a modern care agency offering in-person birth and postpartum doula services alongside prenatal classes and online courses in Western Canada.