1. Why use a doula?

Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement, and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.

Our doulas are educated in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional, and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.

2. What is a PDX doula?

A PDX Doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother during and just after childbirth.

3. Where does the word “doula” come from?

The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “woman’s servant.” Throughout history and in much of the world today, a cadre of women support a woman through labor and birth, giving back rubs and providing continuous emotional support. Like their historical counterparts, PDX Doulas know how to help a woman in labor feel better. However, today’s doulas are much more diverse than their predecessors. Our membership includes women from a wide range of ages and cultural backgrounds.

4. What effect does the presence of a doula have on birth outcomes?

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:

  • tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
  • reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extractions
  • reduces the requests for pain medication and epidurals, as well as the incidence of cesareans

5. What effect does the presence of a doula have on the mother?

When a doula is present during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression.

6. What effect does the presence of doulas have on babies?

Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.

7. How can I use PDX Doulas?

If you are delivering at OHSU, doulas are assigned based on an on-call schedule from Friday 8:00am – Sunday 8:00pm. You can tell your care provider prenatally if you are interested in our doula program, or you can choose to have a doula once you arrive by speaking with your nurse in Labor and Delivery.  Depending on demand, we may not be able to fill all requests.

8.  Can I hire a PDX Doula outside of your volunteer program?

Yes.  Many of our doulas are available to support private clients at any local hospital for a fee.  Fees vary by doula depending on level of education and amount of birth experience.  Please note that if you hire a PDX Doula privately, we ask you to pay a $25 referral fee.  Our program is funded solely by donations and this fee helps us to continue to provide volunteer doula services.  (Private services may be available at reduced rates or pro bono based on need.)  Please read about our doulas and contact us with a list you are interested in and we’ll put you in touch with them.

9.  If I go into labor at OHSU outside of PDX Doulas’ on-call hours, can I still have a PDX Doula?

Possibly.  Our on-call hours are Friday 8:00am – Sunday 8:00pm, however, occasionally we are able to fulfill requests during the week.  We encourage you to speak to your Labor and Delivery nurse about us regardless of when you arrive at OHSU and we’ll do our best to try to accommodate your request.

10. Does a PDX Doula replace nursing staff?

No. Doulas do not replace nurses or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals.

11. Does a PDX Doula make decisions on my behalf?

No. A doula does not make decisions for clients or intervene in their clinical care. She provides informational and emotional support, while respecting a woman’s decisions.

12. Will a PDX Doula make my partner feel unnecessary?

No. A doula is supportive to both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable.

Read DONA’s Dads and Birth Doulas brochure in PDF format.

*Adapted from DONA

Photos courtesy of Heather Johnson and Lani Doser