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About Doulas

South Central Wisconsin Doula Network > About Doulas

What do doulas do?

Doulas provide informational, emotional, and physical support to expectant families, laboring moms and support people, and families with newborns.

Doulas often meet 1-2 times with families prenatally for a few hours.  They are available to give labor support both at home and in the hospital.  Doulas give continuous support to families in labor, through til a couple of hours after the birth.  They’ll also provide 1-2 postpartum visits to process the birth and answer questions about the postpartum.

What doulas actually do *may* include: pointing families to resources (books, websites, educational classes, practitioners in the community), doing labor support in a family’s home in early active labor, helping families determine when an appropriate time to go to the hospital or call your midwife is, help partners to be amazing labor support, encouraging and strategizing position changes, massage, reassurances, help understanding interventions and helping families get the time they need to make decisions, and helping families to process when things don’t go as planned.  They may also help in the postpartum with breastfeeding, and early newborn care.

What don't doulas do?

Medical care: cervical checks, blood pressure, listening to baby’s heart tones.

Tell families what to do.  (Those decisions are yours.  Doulas may provide information and/or help families to get information, and they may facilitate decision-making process – but ultimately all decisions are made by the family.)

Communicate with hospital staff about decisions.

Replace partners or other support people.

What are postpartum doulas?

Postpartum doulas provide the same informational, emotional, and physical support that birth doulas do, but in the newborn period.  They’re available to assist families in the ways a family determines they most need help.  It may be assistance with newborn care (babywearing, diapering, bathing, swaddling, sleeping, gear).  Sometimes it may be emotional processing of the birth or of feelings in the postpartum (postpartum mood disorder is the most common complication of pregnancy).  Postpartum doulas help with light housework, and meal prep – as well as helping families to make a plan to make such tasks a normal rhythm in the midst of ” a new normal”.   They may also help care for the baby so families can get rest and/or do self-care.

Postpartum doulas are paid hourly, and each contract is tailored to what a family needs.

What about my partner/spouse/mom/bff?

Doulas work with families prenatally to help determine what the people supporting a laboring mom want to do and feel comfortable doing.  Doulas then help support people in labor to be awesome labor support.  They cannot replace the people who love mom.

What will my care provider think?

Ask!  Many care providers are aware of doulas (a major ACOG position paper asserted that doulas would be one of the most straightforward strategies for lowering cesarean rates).  Finding out your care providers comfort level with doulas will help you better understand where your care provider is coming from.  At least in the Madison area, care providers and hospital staff are generally familiar with what doulas do, and how they work with families and staff.

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What research is out there on how doulas affect labor?

The best article out there (and a great blog as well) is from Evidence Based Birth: The Evidence for Doulas.  You should check it out.  :)

If doulas were a drug, it would be malpractice not to use them.  -Dr John Kennell

How much do doulas cost?

There is a range!  In South Central WI, the price varies from free to $1150.

Please check out Small Miracles if you feel you may qualify for a free birth – SM serves families who cannot afford to pay, working often with high school students, women receiving WIC, women referred by public health nurses, and families on BadgerCare or medical assistance.

Prices are set by each doula, but generally range based on experience – both how many births she has attended, and how long she’s been active in the birth community.

How do I hire a doula?

Check out doula profiles/websites, shoot out emails to the doulas you are interested in to check availability, and from there set up some interviews.  Interviews are usually coffee/tea dates – and involve questions and answers on both sides.  It’s important that the relationship feel like a good fit to all involved.  From there, if you chose to work with a particular doula, she will send you a contract, and your relationship begins!

What is the SCW Doula Network?

SCW Doula Network is a professional organization of doulas in the Madison & surrounding communities.  Please check out the “About SCW Doula Network” page for more info!

How do I learn more about the SCW Doula Network members?

Check out our doula member profiles here!

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