Everything you need to know about birth & postpartum doulas

by Brood

The word doula conjures up many different images for those who have heard of them before. Maybe a hippie with long gray hair, trails of patchouli wafting behind her as she heads down the bumpy dirt road to support a neighbor’s home birth. Well, that is true in some cases! But in this modern day and age, doulas come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide range of expertise, specialties and evidence-based training. We started Brood because we saw an immediate gap in our healthcare system and as two new parents and a doula, we knew what was needed to help close said gap, because we had experienced it ourselves. Let’s dive into the world of doulas—learn all about what a modern-day care worker does. The support they provide, how they work within our medical system (and with other practitioners), how to find and hire them—all the way down to the common questions we often hear from new and expectant parents!

But first, a little bit about Brood.

We came together during a pandemic, connected by our passion for babies, friendship, families and changing our world through deep and meaningful work. At Brood we believe care is a radical and powerful act, one that supports families and builds communities – provided by a professional team of caregivers. Our doulas can offer personalized physical, emotional and informational support during the transition to parenthood – by providing inclusive, accessible education and in-home doula services that support unique reproductive and life experiences. 

What is a doula?

There are many different types of doulas, offering guidance and support during many of life’s peak experiences including death doulas, gender transition doulas, birth, loss, and abortion doulas (commonly known as full spectrum doulas). In this post, we’ll focus mainly on birth and postpartum support, but know that there are many different supports offered by these incredibly capable care workers.

At Brood, we define doulas as specialized care workers who support birthing people and their families with continuous physical, emotional, and informational support. Doulas are proven to positively affect the outcomes for both birthing person and baby – leading to reduction in pain medication, postpartum depression and anxiety. Doulas have been found to reduce cesarean section frequency, low birth weight, and premature labor. Doula intervention has also been correlated with a decrease in epidural use during delivery, increased rates of nursing, and the use of safety precautions for the child. Need we say more?

The work of doulas today is due to the many generations of birth workers that came before us. Primarily Black and Indigenous, these women had to fight to preserve their ancestral knowledge and to be compensated and respected for their sacred work. Without their radical commitment, this wisdom would have been lost. We honor their work, expertise, and perseverance. We are in awe of every single birth worker, educator, parent, activist, and medical professional that has fought to make family care accessible and affirming for all.

What’s the difference between a birth doula and a postpartum doula? 

Having a deeper understanding of the scope of care that doulas provide is essential for picking the right person for your care team. Keep in mind all doulas offer something slightly different depending on their experience, support packages and personalities, but at Brood here is what you can expect from a birth doula and a postpartum doula (keep in mind, some doulas do both, and some don’t!).

Brood Birth Doulas provide
  • On call support 24 hours/day, 7 days/week – after 36 weeks gestation
  • Ongoing text and email support throughout pregnancy and immediate postpartum 
  • Prenatal sessions with a focus on childbirth education, postpartum planning and understanding your birth preferences 
  • Continuous labour support with hands on care throughout 
  • First feed and latching support 
  • 1-2 postpartum sessions 
  • Birth debrief 

Brood Postpartum Doulas provide
  • Day and/or night shifts, sibling doula care, and support while traveling
  • Aid in education about postpartum healing
  • Newborn care: assistance with soothing, diapering, bathing, feeding and sleep
  • Sleep support for the whole family
  • Nursing, bottle and feeding counsel 
  • Formula and/or bottle preparation and sterilization 
  • Home upkeep, tidying 
  • Encouraging the support of mental health and wellness by helping you stay connected to other healthcare and wellness practitioners 
What’s the difference between a midwife, doula and OB-GYN?

We get this question all the time! Having a better understanding of the scope of each type of care provider will allow you and your family to make an informed decision on what will work best for you. Doulas, midwives, and obstetrician/gynecologists (OB-GYNs) are all essential members of the family healthcare team, each with distinct roles and responsibilities. 

Doula:
  • A doula is a non-medical professional who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to individuals and their families before, during, and after birth.
  • Doulas do not perform medical procedures or provide clinical care but focus on offering comfort measures, advocacy, and guidance to enhance the birthing and postpartum experiences.
  • Doulas aren’t just for those looking to have a home birth, they work in all settings and often with midwives and OB-GYN’s, as part of a larger healthcare team!
  • Provide continuous support during labor and delivery, helping families navigate their options, communicate their preferences to medical staff, and cope with the physical and emotional challenges of childbirth.
  • Doulas may specialize in various areas, such as birth, postpartum, bereavement, or cultural support, tailoring their services to meet the unique needs of their clients.
  • Postpartum doulas do both day and night shifts, focused on postpartum education and support to help you heal, gain confidence and be a more resourced parent. 
Midwife:
  • A midwife is a healthcare professional trained to provide primary care to individuals across the lifespan, with a focus on reproductive health, prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care.
  • Midwives can provide a range of services, including prenatal exams, labor and delivery support, postpartum care, and family planning.
  • They emphasize holistic care, often incorporating a combination of medical interventions and natural approaches to promote healthy pregnancies and childbirth experiences – through client-centered care.
  • Midwives can attend births in various settings, including hospitals, birth centers, and homes, and they work collaboratively with obstetricians and other healthcare providers when needed.
Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB-GYN):
  • An obstetrician/gynecologist is a medical doctor specializing in the management of pregnancy, childbirth, and reproductive health.
  • OB-GYNs provide comprehensive prenatal care, perform deliveries, manage high-risk pregnancies, perform surgical procedures (such as cesarean sections), and offer gynecological services, including annual exams, contraception, and treatment for gynecological conditions.
  • They have extensive medical training and are licensed to diagnose and treat medical conditions related to pregnancy and the reproductive system.
  • While OB-GYNs primarily focus on the clinical aspects of childbirth and reproductive health, they may work alongside midwives and doulas to provide holistic care that addresses the physical, emotional, and medical needs of their patients.

Each plays a crucial role in ensuring safe, empowering, and individualized care for individuals throughout their reproductive journey. So if you thought you had to choose between a midwife/OBGYN and a doula, fear not—you can have both, if not all three in some special cases. 

Why should you hire a birth and postpartum doula?

Ok, so now you know what a doula is and how they can support you, but maybe you’re still undecided and want to know more reasons why you should hire one. Let’s break it down even further. Here are some of the top reasons why you should be hiring a doula, whether you’re a seasoned parent (growing your family) or a first-time parent. 

  1. Continuous Support: A doula provides unwavering support throughout pregnancy, delivery and postpartum, ensuring you feel empowered and comforted every step of the way.
  2. Advocacy: Your doula is your advocate, ensuring your voice is heard and your preferences are respected by medical staff, in any environment.
  3. Evidence-Based Information: Doula support includes providing evidence-based information to help you make informed decisions about your birth plan and postpartum healing.
  4. Non-medical Comfort Measures: From massage techniques to breathing exercises, doulas offer a variety of comfort measures to help manage pain and promote relaxation during labor and your early days home.
  5. Emotional Support: Doulas offer compassionate emotional support, helping you navigate the highs and lows of parenthood with confidence and resilience.
  6. Community Involvement: Doulas support partners and other family members too, providing guidance and reassurance so they can actively participate in your birthing and postpartum experiences.
  7. Reduced Intervention Rates: Studies show that doula support is associated with lower rates of medical interventions, including cesarean sections and epidurals.
  8. Postpartum Care/Night Nurse Services: Doulas provide valuable postpartum support, assisting with newborn care, feeding your baby (whether you are breast/chest feeding, using a bottle or a SNS), and emotional wellness during the early days (or nights!) and weeks.
  9. Personalized Care: Each childrearing journey is unique, and doulas tailor their support to meet your individual needs and preferences.
  10. Empowerment: Above all, hiring a doula is about empowering yourself to have the experiences you desire, supported by a caring and knowledgeable professional.
How much does a birth or postpartum doula cost in Canada and the US?

Ok, so you’re starting to understand the magic of doula care and what they provide, but how much does it cost exactly?! In North America, the expenses associated with hiring a birth and postpartum doula can vary, influenced by factors like geographical location, experience levels, and the range of services offered. Typically, the fees for a birth doula fall within the $800 to $3,000 range, with urban areas often commanding higher rates. Postpartum doula services usually cost between $35 and $65 per hour, often requiring a minimum number of hours. Some doulas may provide package deals encompassing both birth and postpartum support, offering a comprehensive care plan. 

Brood birth doula packages range from $1,100 – $2,500 and use the Green Bottle Sliding Scale method. Brood’s postpartum doulas provide support during the day and overnight. Our day shifts are 5 hours – you pick the hours, we show up. Our overnight care is always from 10 pm to 6 am. For more information about Brood Doula services and packages, click here.


Does my health insurance cover birth and postpartum doula care?

In both the US and Canada, accessing doula services isn’t as straightforward as visiting a doctor or dentist—at least not yet. Although some extended benefits do explicitly cover doula services, securing coverage for doula support can often be challenging, prompting individuals to explore alternative avenues for assistance. Many families in our Brood community have found creative solutions, such as crowdfunding their doula services. By pooling cash gifts from family, friends, and colleagues, they invest in the care they deserve.

If you’re planning a baby shower with a registry, why not consider adding a doula fund as a priority item or even the sole focus? While cute onesies and stuffed animals may be tempting, prioritizing your well-being and support during this transformative time is paramount. Trust us, it’s a decision you won’t regret.

Where and when do I hire a birth or postpartum doula?

There are many ways to hire and find doulas, which can often feel overwhelming! Whether you’re searching community groups online, heading over to Google, going through a trusted doula agency like Brood, getting a referral from your healthcare provider, or through a friend who has an amazing doula reference – there are many different places and spaces to find a great doula!. Because doulas aren’t regulated by any governing body (like Midwives as an example), their training and certifications vary and it’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable with. At Brood, all of our care workers meet the following standards, and this may be something you want to consider when interviewing yours. 

  • Completed a vetted and trusted doula training program
  • An up-to-date First Aid Training and CPR-C certification
  • Criminal record check, with a vulnerable sector check
  • Completion of a thorough application, in-person interview, and multiple references
  • Guided hands-on Brood training and onboarding, with our founder (and full spectrum doula!) Emma

You can hire a doula anytime (from conception through to 36 weeks – we’ve seen it all!), though we recommend researching and hiring a doula late in your first trimester to early in your second trimester. We always say – your doula will cost the same, but having their care early on can create a felt impact in your birth planning and postpartum preparations!

What are the benefits of hiring a birth or postpartum doula through an agency like Brood?

At Brood, we value all types of caregivers, practitioners and doulas and many of our own contractors work for themselves as well as our agency. Our aim is to take care of the careworkers so they can show up and do what they do best for our families which includes being Living Wage Certified. When they work with us, they can focus their energy on the carework itself, instead of marketing, business and billing.

We offer 1on1 mentorship, a tight-knit community of care workers, and reliable back-up and debrief support. We provide our team with complimentary mi-monthly trainings and workshops because we believe in the power of continuing education and see the impact it has on our families. For the newer doulas on our team – we offer shadowing on shifts, 1on1 support and extra education. We have an onboarding program for every one of our caregivers that includes our 7 Care Principles, which is what makes Brood’s care special! We’ve created this original set of values, approaches, and expectations of our care work — crafted from decades of front-line care work, parenting, and community building experience.. 

Hiring a doula through an agency like Brood can often offer families peace of mind, because we’ve vetted, interviewed and selected our doulas based on our standards of care. Then, we get to know you and can help match you with the ideal doula for you – so you can get the quality of care you need and deserve, faster! Curious about more? Reach out!

If you’re interested in hear more from us, don’t forget to check out our blog with more informative and joyful reads like: Navigating Diet Culture’s Impact on Pregnancy and Parenting, One and Done? I Want to Give My Son A Sibling But I Have PPD PTSD, and When Motherhood & Doula Practices Collide.

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We work and live on the unceded and occupied territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. Since time immemorial, the original peoples of these lands have cared for their families and communities. We are committed to honouring their teachings, legacy and their sovereignty.

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