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Common Misconceptions About Doula Work

Updated: May 29, 2023

Doulas are becoming more mainstream, but a lot of people still don’t completely understand what exactly doulas do. Frequently, when I share with a new acquaintance that I am a doula, they immediately say “So you’re a midwife?”. This is an example of a common misconception- the roles of doulas and midwives are completely different in the birth space. In today’s blog post, I will break down some other common misconceptions surrounding our line of work.

Common Misconceptions About Doula Work

1. Doulas support only unmedicated births

Do doulas support unmedicated births? Yes! Do doulas support ONLY unmedicated births? Absolutely not. I can’t count the number of births that I have attended that have included an epidural- but the number is high! Doulas are trained to support all types of labors. A good doula will have the skills needed to coach and support a client through the highs and lows of an unmedicated birth, but will also have the knowledge needed to effectively support a client through medicated scenarios such as inductions or epidural births. When interviewing a doula, it’s important to ask about her birth philosophy. The Madam Doula philosophy is “Your Body, Your Birth, Your Choice” meaning that we enthusiastically support all types of births- medicated, unmedicated, and everything in between.

2. Postpartum doulas are nannies

Postpartum doulas are not nannies! I say this so frequently that I might as well print this onto a T-shirt. The goal of the postpartum doula is to support the family through the postpartum period, which typically means that postpartum doulas work with a family throughout the first three months of a baby’s life. Postpartum doulas do provide infant care, as nannies also do, but postpartum doulas also provide emotional support and assist in post-birth healing, as well as provide infant care education. A quality postpartum doula will be able to help families master bottle-feeding or breastfeeding. Nannying, like doula work, is a wonderful and fulfilling career, however, the roles of a nanny and a postpartum doula are not interchangeable.

3. Doulas push husbands and partners out of the birth space

This misconception in particular really irks me, because nothing could be further from the truth! Sometimes, parents will be apprehensive about hiring a doula because they think that the husband or partner (whom I will refer to here as the “birth partner”) will be pushed to the side during labor and delivery. The truth is that doulas LOVE getting birth partners involved! We love transforming labor into a family-centered event. In fact, there are numerous laboring positions that require 2 or 3 people. Following several births, parents have expressed gratitude that they chose to hire us as doulas because we made such an effort to keep the birth partner engaged and involved throughout the labor and delivery. We like to say that together, doulas and dads (or partners) make a dream team.

4. My doula will judge me if I choose not to breastfeed

Above, I mentioned that one of the major roles of a postpartum doula is assisting with breastfeeding or bottle-feeding (and often both!). However, a common question that I am asked by potential postpartum clients is “Will you work with me if I choose not to breastfeed?” The answer is a resounding yes. I will never go on an anti-formula rant to a postpartum mom. My goal as a doula is to support your unique journey through the birth and postpartum period. Breastfeeding is great, but so is bottle-feeding. It makes absolutely no difference to me which method you use to feed your baby. The majority of people are physically able to breastfeed, but many people opt to formula feed instead for numerous personal reasons. Just like in the birth space, it is my job to support you and your feeding choices enthusiastically, compassionately, and happily.

5. Doulas are only for crunchy people

Crunchy people love doulas, but so do lawyers, real estate moguls, engineers, software developers, and White House staff members. We have worked with parents from each of these career categories. Sure, there’s probably a few crunchy lawyers out there somewhere, but I have yet to meet them. People often think that doulas will only benefit unmedicated, breastfeeding, hippie mothers wearing Birkenstocks and driving a hybrid. This is not true! The support of a doula can benefit anyone welcoming a child. We love our crunchy moms, and we love our lawyer moms too.

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