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Benefits of Having a Doula

Well, first, what is a doula?

History of Doulas 

 What are the different types of doulas?

Doulas’ work across the many types can be generally described under the pillars of physical support, emotional support, informational support, and advocacy. 

Birth Doula

Postpartum Doula

Full Spectrum Doula

Abortion Doula

Fertility Doula

Community-based Doula

End-of-Life/Death Doula

Transition Doula

There are many overlaps across the different kinds of doulas. Many types have no single, standardized certification process, and instead have several certification programs, often with their own focus and philosophy. However, many doulas' philosophies emphasize client agency and informed consent. Doulas of various types also seem to have a predisposition to giving a shit about things that matter, particularly injustices. They have a disposition to heal, both at work and beyond it. This healing spirit may be best exemplified by the history of doulas and street medics. Here’s an example of the Southen Birth Justice Network doing that work: 

"In the spirit of Assata Shakur and the community health model advanced by the Black Panther Party, Southern Birth Justice Network and a host of doctors, first responders and other emergency health workers trained community members in CPR administration, gun shot wound, pregnancy, and emergency response techniques to provide a community based alternative to EMTs and paramedics in marginalized communities....The purpose of this event was to share information and resources to prepare everyday people to deal with life threatening emergencies. Street Medics is a concept that originated in the US during the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movement with the idea that we have to care for and protect our own."(3) 

What a Doula is Not

doula comforting laboring person on toilet pregnant person in labor at birth center with partner
Photo by Jacinta Lagos

What is the difference between a doula and a labor & delivery nurse? 

Doulas are not medical professionals in their capacities as doulas; however, doulas can certainly attain the education and training to be medical professionals in addition to being doulas. Medical professionals in the hospital, like labor and delivery nurses, also may not see your interests as paramount over the hospital's or other patients' interests, unlike doulas. More on this later…

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife? Doula versus midwife 

A midwife is a trained healthcare professional who is trained to monitor the health of the pregnant person and the fetus, provide medical interventions as needed (such as administering medications, performing suturing, and managing complications), and assist with childbirth. Like doulas, midwives can work in various settings, including hospitals, birthing centers, and homebirth practices.

Depending on the region and their level of training, midwives may be certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), certified midwives (CMs), or direct-entry midwives (also known as certified professional midwives or licensed midwives), each with varying scopes of practice and educational backgrounds.

In Illinois midwife news, following the Licensed Certified Professional Midwife Practice Act, Illinois became the 37th state to provide licensure to Certified Professional Midwives(CPMs). Prior to this law, midwives were only given licensure if they were certified nurse midwives(CNMs) with a nursing license. Although CPMs cannot get their license until the rules for the act are adopted, it is a big step forward. For example, it can increase the number of providers in areas with fewer birthing hospitals. It also helped advance the push for midwife services to be made reimbursable by Medicaid through HB4343. If you are skeptical that this change may standardize or professionalize care in a way that perpetuates the issues within medical establishments, that is understandable. However, the act details that some traditional midwives may be exempt from licensure. Namely, it states that licensure is not required for 1) traditional birth attendants following cultural, Indigenous, or religious traditions and serving a member of that culture, identity, or religion, 2) a midwife student, or 3) a midwife assistant. Additionally, it reiterates parents’ ability to choose who is involved in their childbirth regardless of licensure (which can be seen as both a hopeful and scary affirmation). This act is good news because it allows CPM licensure to be detached from nursing licensure and affirms midwives’ credibility as healthcare professionals.

What is the difference between a doula and a labor companion?

You may wonder “Can my friend or family member be my doula?” While they cannot offer the same information, techniques, expertise, and experiences that a trained doula provides, a friend or family member can be a wonderful resource and addition to your birthing experience.

In a 2020 study across four countries (Myanmar, Ghana, Guinea, and Nigeria), researchers found that the presence of a labor companion regardless of formal training helped protect birthing people from mistreatment.(8) A 2022 review found that formally trained doulas who were not a part of the medical staff brought about the most beneficial positive effects of continuous labor support.(9)  

Now, let's get into the good stuff...

What are the benefits of having a full spectrum, birth, or postpartum doula?  B

Benefits of having finding getting a doula

Greater likelihood of good health for you and the baby

Continuity of care

Informational support & client agency

Physical support & pain management techniques

Emotional support  

Whole-patient care

They only have eyes for you


Final thought: Unless your spouse or your parent is an actual doula... they are NOT doulas. Get Mel.

Renee W., 2022 client

Resources Referenced: 


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