Having a baby? You could benefit from a doula.


The most popular months of the year for giving birth are July through October, which means that as of this posting date in February, many folks just found out they’re pregnant or will soon! Maybe you or your partner are one of them. In addition to the myriad decisions you’ll need to make over the next nine months, you might consider a doula. 

As a public health agency, we’re big fans of doulas because they may help improve labor and birth outcomes. This is a main goal of the Dane County Health Council, as well as many other organizations we are lucky enough to call partners. We support the work of community-based doulas through our Maternal and Child Health programs. Despite evidence supporting their efficacy, a small percentage of people report working with a doula during birth. We want that number to be higher. 

This is the first in our 3-part series on doulas, and today we’re focusing on explaining what a doula is and how they can support you. 

Birth doulas provide support during the entire reproductive journey, including pregnancy and the postpartum period. 

A birth doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to their client before, during, and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible” (DONA International). 

A doula does not replace your medical team, including your ob-gyn and/or midwife, but rather serves as an advocate and resource, making sure your pregnancy and birthing needs are met. Doulas also do not replace your partner or support team. A doula is able to answer their questions, offer them strategies to best support you, and make sure they are getting breaks and rest too.

A birth doula is your collaborative partner and can help you make a birth plan that helps you achieve your desired birthing experience, says Ms. Tracey, full-spectrum doula, founder of Russell Family Doula Services, and a Foundation for Black Women's Wellness doula supporting ConnectRx Wisconsin

Portrait of doula Jasmine Jones
Image credit:
Jasmine Jones

…the OB or midwives that the birthing person may have been seeing through pregnancy may not be present at the actual delivery. Having a constant person who has been there the whole journey helps alleviate anxiety and adrenaline during the labor process.

Jasmine M. Jones, doula, owner of Amir’s Angels, and a Foundation for Black Women's Wellness doula supporting ConnectRx Wisconsin

Virtually everyone giving birth can benefit from a doula, whether it’s your first birth or your fourth! Even experts on pregnancy and labor use doulas; just ask this ob-gyn who raved about her experience with her doula.

Ways a doula supports you

During labor and childbirth, a doula can provide:

Physical support, such as offering massage, breathing exercises, and strategies and positions for more comfort. “What I love most about being a doula is assisting mothers in their ideal birthing experience. Breaking down the stages of labor helps birthing persons trust their bodies so much more,” says Jones.

Emotional and mental health support, such as providing a listening ear, reassurance, and validating emotions. Chandra Lewis, a full-spectrum doula and owner of Reimagining Full Spectrum Doula Services says, “My role extends beyond physical assistance to encompass emotional support. I create a safe and nurturing environment, actively listening to concerns, fears, and joys, fostering trust, and helping individuals navigate the emotional aspects of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.”

Partner support, such as giving breaks, answering questions, and offering strategies for the non-birthing person to support the birthing person. 

Portrait of doula Chandra Lewis
Image credit:
Chandra Lewis

I am a firm believer that my responsibility as your doula is to magnify support for you and your partner or spouse. I've dealt with a variety of birthing partners, and one thing they all have in common is that they understand you better than anybody else. Even if they are unsure how to assist you throughout labor and delivery, partners are aware of your anxieties, preferences, and aspirations. Doulas support your partner or spouse by encouraging them, providing direction and recommendations as required, reminding them to remain hydrated, to take breaks, and more.

Chandra Lewis, Certified Full-Spectrum Doula and Childbirth Educator, Owner of Reimagining Full Spectrum Doula Services

Nurse Uno, full-spectrum doula and owner of A Doula Just for You, adds, “Doulas can also serve as a birth partner when the birthing person does not have a support person identified.”

Cultural support, including recognizing and honoring cultural diversity, traditions, and customs. 

Portrait of Mariela Quesada Centeno
Image credit:
Mariela Quesada Centeno

Each body is interconnected with its context, generational history, culture, language, and realities, making each pregnancy a unique and profoundly personal experience between the birthing person, the emergent human, and the support people during this stage of their lives. 

For immigrant women, the support of a doula can provide bridges in their understanding of the health care system, their rights as pregnant people…, providing resources…, accessing learning opportunities targeting their ways of learning, and providing spaces for healing and self-empowerment.

A portrait of the Roots4Change team
Image credit:

Mariela Quesada Centeno, manager of Roots4Change

Evidence-based information and advocacy, such as providing resources to make informed decisions, helping you understand your choices and options, and serving as an advocate and communicator to the healthcare providers. Full-spectrum doula Chandra Lewis says, “Through childbirth education and ongoing support, I empower individuals to make choices aligned with their values and preferences.”

Doulas most commonly assist during labor and delivery, but some doulas specialize in other areas too. A full-spectrum reproductive doula provides physical comfort, emotional care, and advocacy across life situations including abortions, miscarriages, stillbirths, and fertility challenges. 

Portrait of doula Nurse Uno
Image credit:
Nurse Uno

From my 20 plus years of doula experience, I am what you call a full-spectrum doula. I have supported many birthing people through the entire spectrum of reproduction, fertility, pregnancy, loss, abortion, birth and postpartum. Additionally, I provide perinatal, childbirth education, and lactation support.

Nurse Uno, full-spectrum doula and owner of A Doula Just for You

Antepartum doulas provide support for pregnant people who are on bedrest or experiencing a challenging pregnancy, while postpartum doulas provide support and respite for parents in the weeks after birth. Doulas are providing support to people throughout the lifecourse

Doulas can help us create a positive and empowering birthing experience, and there’s also data to show they can improve labor and birth outcomes, especially for members of the BIPOC community who are more likely to experience discrimination in the healthcare system. Tomorrow, we’ll be posting the next installment of our doula series: how doulas are part of the solution for improving labor and birth outcomes. Subscribe to our blog and you’ll get an email as soon as it posts.  

We’d like to thank Chandra Lewis of Reimagining Full-Spectrum Doula Services, Jasmine M. Jones of Amir’s Angels, Ms. Tracey Russell of Russell Family Doula Services, Uchenna “Uno” Jones of A Doula Just for You, Aída Inuca of Roots4ChangeRoots4Change manager Mariela Quesada Centeno, the Foundation for Black Women's Wellness, and Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron for their review and contributions to this blog.

This content is free for use with credit to Public Health Madison & Dane County .

Was this page helpful to you?