What are the benefits of having a doula?
Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
A doula is a professional labor assistant who provides physical and emotional support to you and your partner during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.
For instance, a doula might offer:
- Attention to physical comfort through techniques such as touch and massage and assistance with breathing
- Emotional reassurance, comfort and encouragement
- Information about what's happening during labor and the postpartum period, including explanations of procedures
- Help with facilitating communication between you and the hospital staff
- Guidance and support for loved ones
- Assistance with breast-feeding
Often, however, a doula's most important role is to provide continuous support during labor and delivery. Although research is limited, some studies have shown that continuous support from doulas during childbirth might be associated with:
- A decreased use of pain relief medication during labor
- A decreased incidence of C-sections
- A decrease in the length of labor
- A decrease in negative childbirth experiences
A doula might add another opinion to the mix when decisions need to be made about labor and delivery. However, a doula doesn't provide medical advice, nor can she or he change the clinical recommendations of a midwife or an obstetrician. Also, fees and insurance coverage vary.
If you're interested in hiring a doula, ask your health care provider, childbirth instructor, family or friends for recommendations. You might also contact your local hospital for a referral.
When interviewing potential doulas, ask about their training, how many births they've attended, their philosophies about childbirth, what services they provide, and the cost. Also, discuss your preferences and concerns about pregnancy, labor and delivery.
Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
Feb. 03, 2021
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing
Our Housecall e-newsletter will keep you up-to-date on the latest health information.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Kozhimannil KB, et al. Coverage for doula services: How state Medicaid programs can address concerns about maternity care costs and quality. Birth. 2016;43:97.
- How to hire a doula. DONA International. https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/how-to-hire-a-doula/. Accessed Feb. 4, 2019.
- Benefits of a doula. DONA International. https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/benefits-of-a-doula/. Accessed Feb. 4, 2019.
- Stuebe A. Continuous labor support by a doula. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 7, 2019.
- Strauss N, et al. Overdue: Medicaid and private insurance coverage of doula care to strengthen maternal and infant health. The Journal of Perinatal Education. 2016;25:145.
- Bohren MA, et al. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/. Accessed Feb. 4, 2019.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Month 7. In: Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month. 6th ed. Washington, D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; 2015.
- Your guide to breastfeeding. Office on Women's Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/patient-materials/resource/guides. Accessed Jan. 31, 2019.