This blog post is written by contributing writer Nicky Dawkins, CD, PPD, HHC. Learn more about our advising PROUDLY doula at the end of this article.
If you are currently pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or recently had a baby, you may be considering adding a doula to your support team.
Over the years, it has come to light that the maternal mortality rate for Black women is three times higher than that of non-hispanic white women. Multiple factors contribute to these statistics, such as underlying chronic conditions, quality health care, and racism.
While having a doula doesn’t guarantee an all-natural experience, research over the past 30 years has shown that doulas can improve birth experiences and health outcomes for both mother and baby – particularly mothers of color. This includes decreasing the need for c-sections and other interventions, increasing positive birth experiences, and reducing the chances of postpartum mental health issues.
So what is a doula anyway?
By official definition, a doula is a certified, non-clinical professional trained to provide support for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.
By my definition, a doula is a companion there to guide women through all aspects of the reproductive health journey: practical, informational, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Doulas are not only meant to help women achieve a healthy and satisfying birth experience, but to provide continuous care throughout the many phases of maternal health and motherhood.
Doula care covers a wide spectrum of services that can be tough to navigate at first. But if you are looking to hire a doula, I’m here to walk you through it!
When should I hire a doula?
There are many types of doulas, and deciding when to hire one depends on the kind of support you are looking for within your pregnancy journey. The most common are:
- Fertility Doulas who help during the conception process, often with those struggling to get pregnant.
- Birth Doulas who assist during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth.
- Postpartum Doulas who help families during the postpartum period, typically within the first 12 weeks after the baby is born.
Many doulas offer the services listed above and more! They are known as “full-circle” or “full-spectrum” doulas. This type of doula is becoming more popular as they can assist parents throughout the entire process – and even the next baby!
Where can I find a doula?
Finding your dream doula can seem overwhelming, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Ask your friends. For such an intimate experience, go with the trusted word of a friend or someone local who had a positive experience. Ask for recommendations from mom friends and in local online mom groups.
- Ask your midwife or OBGYN. Asking for a referral from your midwife or doctor can be great because they likely already have a working relationship with that doula. This is also a good way to find out if your provider is doula-friendly.
- Use a doula directory. Several organizations host lists of doulas by city, state, and even the services they provide. Check out listings on National Black Doula Association, The Educated Birth, DoulaMatch.net, CAPPA, or DONA for fully certified doulas.
- Go through a doula agency. Doula agencies can cut down some of the work because they vet doulas in advance and match you with them based on your needs and location. Many organizations that train doulas also have agency services, such as Mama Glow and Ancient Song.
Once you’ve identified one or several doulas, it’s important to interview them to make sure you feel comfortable. Check out this article on I Have a Consultation with a Doula—What Questions Should I Ask?
How much should I pay for doula services?
The cost of hiring a doula varies greatly, usually depending on the doula’s level of experience and your location. Typically doula fees range between $500 for new, inexperienced doulas up to $5,000 for seasoned doulas. There are a few ways you can pay for doula services:
- Insurance - Medicaid now covers doula services in eight states including Florida, New Jersey, Washington DC, and is continuing to expand in 2023. A few private insurance companies cover all or some doula services, but you have to call them directly. Not all doulas will take every insurance, so be sure you are covered before hiring them.
- Out-of-Pocket - If you have to pay out of pocket, you ask your doula if they offer payment plans. Many community doulas offer a sliding scale where you can pay a little less than their normal fee.
- Scholarships - Some doulas or non-profit doula organizations offer scholarships, so always ask! You can also check out programs like Southern Birth Justice Network, Love Delivered or Black Birth Equity Fund, who offer grants to pregnant women to cover doula services.
- Crowdfund - Your own village is probably the most untapped resource for building your doula fund! Ask for money to pay for doula services instead of those baby shower items. Create a fundraising link and send it out to your friends. I mean, who wouldn’t want to support you having a healthy birth experience?
Regardless of what you decide, always keep in mind that every doula experience is different—because every pregnancy and birth is different. Overall, hiring a doula as part of your maternal journey is one of the best decisions you can make. Always follow your instincts and do your research to find the doula that is right for you!
***While this blog occasionally uses the words “mother”, “woman” or “women,” it is not intended to be exclusionary. We recognize that different categories of people, including cisgender women and transgender men, are able to become pregnant.
About Nicky Dawkins
Nicky Dawkins is a Holistic Reproductive Health Doula and Activist based in Miami, FL. She is the founder of Werk it Moms, a mom-driven organization that focuses on providing educational workshops, community events, and a safe space for mompreneurs and working mothers. In addition to this work, she is the founder of the Menstrual Market and has served as Vice Chair of the Miami Diaper Bank since 2018. She also serves on the board of No One Births Alone non-profit and others.
Nicky works with birthing people from fertility to postpartum and everything in between. Her passion is to help birthing people have a healthy period, pregnancy, and birth experience with as little intervention as possible. Nicky also works heavily in advocacy within the reproductive health and justice space, focusing primarily on menstrual equity, birth equity, and maternal mental health.
Vaginal Steaming Practitioner - Steamy Chick
Full Spectrum Doula - Mama Glow
Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Doula - Nneka Hall, PSI
Breastfeeding Counselor - Healthy Start Coalition
Holistic Herbs Practitioner - Grandma’s Hands
Placenta Encapsulation Specialist - Women’s Choice Prenatal
Menstrual Health Coach - Nicole Jardim Fix Your Period
Cannabis Doula Practitioner - The Cannabis Doula and Trichome Institute
Women’s Hormone Health Coach - Menstrual Health Institute
Maternal Mental Health Certification - Postpartum Support International