What exactly is a birth doula?

A doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides emotional, physical and educational support to you and your partner during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.  A doula is there to support you in making the decisions that are right for you throughout your pregnancy and birth.

So….what does that really mean?

It means I am there for YOU!  I am there to be your #1 cheerleader, your hand holder and sometimes your shoulder to cry on. My only focus is the birthing person and their partner. Your nurses and care providers are often very busy with the medical aspects of labor and birth. They also change shifts and come and go, but I am able to stay right with you the whole time.

We’ve worked together prenatally, and we have talked about how you’re hoping your birth will go.  You’ve told me what might help you and also the things not to do….I know the little things – like that head massages do wonders for relaxing you or that you don’t like your feet touched because you are ticklish.  Your partner has let me know what they need as well – maybe he needs to be reminded to keep his head in the game when it gets intense, or she knows that you really want her to be right there telling you that you can do it.

I’ll help you find different positions throughout your labor, assist you on the birth ball, and reassure you that you are doing just great. When your partner is hungry or tired or really needs that big cup of coffee at 3 am, they know you are supported and taken care of while they get some food and caffeine.  Your birth doula is an important part of your birth team!




Do doulas really help?

I love research and statistics! Here are some key points from a recent study.*

Birth doulas:

  • Reduce the need for cesarean by 26%
  • Reduce the use of pain medication by 28%
  • Reduce the need for forceps by 41%
  • Reduce dissatisfaction with birth by 33%

6 Weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were:

  • Less anxious and depressed
  • More confident with their baby
  • More satisfied with their partner (71% vs. 30%)
  • More likely to be breastfeeding (52% vs. 29%)

I want an epidural. Should I still have a doula?

Absolutely! I support birthing people in all types of settings and in all the ways they choose to birth. I believe the right way to give birth is the way you want to give birth. I have experience working with all types of births in multiple settings. I am here to support you so that you have the birth you want. Research shows that those who have used a doula have a greater satisfaction with their birth, no matter what type of birth they had. In addition, epidurals don’t take away the emotional aspects of labor. Sometimes, there’s still some discomfort and pressure and exhaustion to deal with. Doulas are still a tremendous help, even after an epidural.

Can my mom/husband/best friend be my doula?

Your mom or best friend can be a great support person, that is true! But a professional doula is someone who has had training in labor and birth, is often certified by an organization like DONA and has been involved in many births so they are familiar with how labor and birth unfolds. Studies actually show that the positive effects of continuous labor support are present when provided by someone who is NOT a family member or a friend†. So when you are putting together your birth support team, mom/cousin/best friend are all wonderful people to invite to your birth in addition to a trained, professional doula. These other support people know a lot about YOU but a doula knows a lot about birth.

Will a doula advocate for me or talk to care providers on my behalf?

No. I don’t speak to your medical providers for you. I don’t become your advocate or “empower” you, instead I help you become your own advocate. You get to empower yourself! We are often stronger than we know, we just sometimes need someone to help us find the information or words we need to advocate for ourselves. I do not offer my clients medical advice, but rather information and emotional support so that they can make the decisions that are right for them. I can help you prepare questions to ask your care provider and provide resources to find additional information when you need it. I’m here to help you find your voice so you can ask for what you want and need throughout your pregnancy, labor and birth.

I'm having an out of hospital birth with a midwife. Do I still need a doula?

Having a doula for a home or birth center birth is a great idea! I love the midwifery model of care and there are aspects of midwives and doulas that are similar. But a midwife is a medically trained care provider who is there to listen to baby’s heart, check your vitals, administer some medications and perform other medical care that keeps you and baby healthy and safe. Doulas don’t do anything medical at all. We are there to give you all the physical, mental and emotional support you need. When your midwife is able, she will often do this too. But when situations arise during labor and birth when your midwife needs to be focused on your medical care and safety, your doula is the one who can be there to hold your hand and encourage you. It is also nice to know that if your plans change at any time during pregnancy or labor, your doula will go with you to a new birthing location and continue to provide information, support and encouragement.

What my clients say:

My husband and I could not be happier with Crystal. Hands down she has been the most helpful member of our treatment team. As a new mom, her wisdom and compassionate nature have given me peace and confidence through this process. She could charge significantly more than she does for her level of expertise and competence. This is clearly a calling for her. We are incredibly grateful. - Jennifer & Jon, Bainbridge

What if my birth plan changes?

Birth is like life: amazing, wonderful and and often unpredictable. Plans change during labor: a planned home birth might need to move to a medical facility, a planned vaginal birth might change to a surgical birth, maybe you didn’t want pain medication, but now you do. These changes can feel stressful and a doula can help you gather new information, feel confident in your decisions and support you through the twists and turns that labor brings. If your plans change during labor, I can help you gather new information, so you can feel confident in your decisions, and you will have constant support no matter how your birth unfolds.

What if you are trampled by elephants and can’t make it to my birth?

I hear this at almost every consultation I do (well, maybe not the ‘trampled by elephants’ part!). In the rare instance that I am unable to attend your birth, I have great relationships with a few wonderful doulas who agree to work as my back-up. I choose a back-up doula for each client based on that client’s needs and personality and I make sure you know who that person is. A professional doula will always have a solid back-up arrangement in place to ensure you are supported no matter what.

Will a doula take the place of my partner?

Not at all! A good doula will help your partner just as much as they help you. My role is to help your partner be as involved as they want to be. During our prenatal visits, we’ll talk about how you envision your partner’s role in your labor and birth and we’ll find out your partner’s comfort level too. Having a doula means your partner has someone to help them be the rockstar support person that you deserve! Having a doula also means that partners can take a break, eat, visit family members in the waiting room, or even take a nap during long labors, and feel secure in knowing the laboring mom is not alone, but being confidently supported by her doula!
Flickr.Natalia Wilson1


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*Evidence Based Birth

Childbirth Connection

Special thanks to my friends at Piedmont Doulas for letting me “borrow” some of their FAQ questions.