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What does a DOULA do?

Picture this. I arrive at the Starbucks drive-through ready to pickup my morning coffee, and the friendly barista, as per usual, strikes up a conversation. “Morning! Off to work? What do you do?”. With a knowing smile and an understanding of how this conversation will unfold, I respond, “I’m a doula.”

“A what?” The barista asks puzzled and confused.

I take a moment to explain. “A doula. I help parents through pregnancy and birth.”

“Oh, you’re a midwife!” they exclaim.

I smile politely but shake my head. “No, not a midwife. I’m a doula. A doula is a professional labor support. I don’t make any medical calls. My role is to support parents mentally, physically, and emotionally through the entire journey of childbirth.”

The Pandora’s box of questions has opened…and all I really want is my triple espresso with oat milk.

This happens to me ALL the time! This is my norm as a doula. Walking around with one of the world’s most incredible jobs, and still needing to explain it to the majority of people. So here we go…I’ll tell you some things a DOULA does.

hospital birth with doula support

What’s a Doula Anyway?

Giving birth – no doubt one of life’s most epic adventures! It’s exciting, nerve-wracking, and often overwhelming as there is so much unknown. If you’ve never climbed a mountain, would you climb Mt. Everest without a guide? Enter the doula! We’re your personal, professional birth guides through the wild journey of childbirth. A doulas mission? To make your birth experience as empowering and positive as possible, make sure you feel heard, comforted, and supported through every stage. A doula truly believes how you feel during birth matters.

So What Does a Doula Do?

Now, let’s break it down a bit. What exactly do doulas do? And if I had more time with the Starbucks barista, this is what I’d say. We’ve got an acronym for that, as doulas…we D-O-U-L-A!

DDeepen Partner’s Involvement

Portland doula helping a hospital birth

Contrary to popular belief, having a doula doesn’t mean partners are pushed to the sidelines. Actually, the exact opposite, as a good doula will ENHANCE the partner’s involvement. When labor gets intense or starts throwing curveballs, partners can sometimes feel lost, overwhelmed or even paralyzed.

That’s where a doula comes in! A doula will step in with tips and tricks to boost the partners’ confidence and give them guidance on ways to help. With doula support, partners can be the unwavering support you need during labor. Sometimes, all it takes is a little nudge from us to turn them into your shining knight or superhero.

Plus, let’s not forget that birth is a marathon for BOTH parents, and every marathoner needs a break, go to the bathroom, and time to eat (with our watchful eyes, of course). With a doula on your team, we help relieve the pressure on the partner, making sure they feel supported too.

OOffer Physical and Emotional Support

Portland doula helping hospital birth
Photo credit Jessica Clark| RedFred Photography

Labor is like a mega-triathlon for your body and a rollercoaster for your emotions. Doulas are trained professionals in the art of comfort. We know the best positions to ease pain, reduce back labor, speed up labor, and even turn that stubborn posterior baby. But we’re not just about physical support; we’re also your emotional safe haven.

When the waves of emotion hit (and trust us, they can), we’re here to hold space, and validate the hard work that labor is. Doulas encourage your tears, frustrations and all the emotions that may come up to be released so you can labor freely. As doulas, we know the emotions that happen in each stage of labor and we aren’t scared by any of it. Women birth better when they don’t feel alone and having a doula on the team ensures more physical and emotional nurturing through the entire process.

UUnloads Anxieties & Fears

portland oregon doula

Let’s face it; thinking of labor can be scary. We get it. That’s why as doulas, we are here to support you through it all – pregnancy, birth, and postpartum! At Baby Nest, our doulas offer two pre-birth sessions to help make birth plans, practice labor positions, talk about the partner’s role, and ultimately reduce fears with education. < Learn what is included in our Baby Nest Doula Package >

With a doula on your team, you’ll know exactly who to call when you start to have contractions. No more middle-of-the-night panic attacks because you think your water broke! Your doula is here to answer your questions, calm your fears, and provide you with all the information you need to feel confident and have less anxiety. We got you!

LLessen Interventions

portland Doula giving massage to mom in labor

Studies have consistently shown that having a doula can significantly reduce the need for medical interventions during childbirth. According to a comprehensive review of doula-supported births, the presence of a doula was associated with a remarkable 50% decrease in the overall cesarean section rate, a 25% reduction in the length of labor, a 40% decrease in the use of pitocin (induction medication), and a staggering 60% drop in requests for epidurals.

These statistics paint a compelling picture of the powerful impact of doula support. Doulas are here to help you labor at home, explore natural pain relief methods, and make informed decisions. With doula support, you’re not just reducing the chances of medical interventions; you’re increasing your chances of having a positive birth experience.

AAdvocates and Informs You of Choices

Birth can throw unexpected twists and turns your way. That’s where doulas come in as your trusty birth navigators. Doulas won’t make decisions for you, but we’ll arm you with knowledge and empower you to make informed choices. Sometimes birth plans change, and our goal is to ensure you feel heard and know all the information (even things your doctor might not be saying).

And remember, the birth world is what we know as doulas. We will inform you of the benefits and risks of all medical offerings so you can make decisions that feel right to you. As doulas it’s important to amplify the mother’s voice if they are being dismissed, ignored, or not heard by medical staff.

Vancouver wa doula

So that is what a DOULA does! As doulas in Portland, Oregon, we’ve seen the incredible impact of having a doula by your side. The benefits are so powerful that some hospitals, like Legacy Emanuel and Providence, even have doula staff in their labor and delivery units! But wherever you choose to give birth, one thing remains true: all parents deserve the support, comfort, and guidance that a doula can provide.

So, whether you’re planning a home birth, a hospital birth, or something in between, consider adding a D-O-U-L-A to your birth dream team. Because when it comes to birthing, birth is better when you don’t feel alone!

Click here to schedule a FREE doula consultation, where we’ll answer all your questions about how we can support you with doula support.

Written by Sherilee Peters, your friendly Portland Oregon doula with over 17 years of experience. At Baby Nest Birth Services, one of Vancouver & Portland leading doula agencies, we have 60 years of combined doula experience. We provide birth doula support, postpartum doula support, Bradley Method Classes, and Certified Placenta Encapsulation.