What do birth doulas do?

They make childbirth easier.

Birth doulas help you get ready as you near your due date; help you breathe, relax, and find the right positions during labor; and offer comfort care immediately after the birth. The result: fewer C-sections, fewer epidurals, shorter labor—and a faster recovery.

Many also offer any or all of the following services:

  • High-risk pregnancy care, including care during bed rest
  • Childbirth classes
  • Water birth support, including tub rentals
  • Hypnosis for pregnancy, labor, and birth
  • Monitrice services (providing clinical as well as emotional and practical support during birth, including tracking vital signs, palpating fetal position, monitoring fetal heart tones, and checking cervical progress)

Most birth doulas work in any setting you choose:

  • A hospital
  • A birth center
  • Your home


You can expect birth doulas to charge a flat fee for their services, which usually covers at least two prenatal visits, 24/7 availability during your expected delivery window (usually beginning at about 37 weeks), support during your labor and birth (no matter how long it lasts), and at least one postpartum visit. The average fee for a certified birth doula is about $800; the average for a non-certified doula is about $650. But in rural areas, you might pay as little as a few hundred dollars; in pricey urban areas, it can reach $3,000 or more. You might also pay additional fees for things like tub rentals for water births.

Doula services are sometimes covered by health insurance in the U.S. If your plan doesn’t cover doula birth care, you can save some of the cost by paying out of a flexible spending plan if you have one.

What to look for:

Aim for someone who has attended a lot of births in the kind of setting you want—and, ideally, has been certified by Doulas of North America (DONA), which means she’s met rigorous requirements in training and professionalism. (Note that doulas aren’t required to be licensed.)

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More good things to know or do:

  • Interview your top candidates (1:1 is best, or at least by phone or Skype) to make sure your personalities mesh. Key questions to ask:
      • How much training and experience do you have—and how many births have you attended?
      • What’s your philosophy about childbirth and the role you’d expect to play in my labor and birth?
      • Will I be able to call, text, or email you with questions before or after the birth—and how often?
      • Which ob-gyns or midwives have you worked with—and in what hospitals have you attended births?
      • At what point in labor do you expect to show up? (Will you meet us at home, before we go to the hospital or birth center, for example, or will you only meet us in the hospital?)
      • Do you work with any backup doulas in case you’re not available? If so, who are they and how would that work? (Many birth doulas work in teams.)
      • What time period, if any, do you guarantee to be available (which weeks)?
      • Is any part of your fee refundable if you’re not able to attend my birth?
      • Can you provide recent references?
  • Hire early. Start looking as early in your pregnancy as you can, so you’ll have time to find a good match who’s available around the time of your due date.

Photo: Lindsey Turner/Flickr

See also:

By | 2017-08-30T12:12:09+00:00 January 9th, 2017|Expecting, Q&A|

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