Ask the Doula Series: Episode 1 What is a Doula?

I recently kicked off a series called “Ask the Doula Series”. I had been getting a lot of questions and thought other people may be asking the same questions. With this idea I began this series where I will go live on my Facebook page Sparrow Doula Services and answer those questions.


Here is a manuscript of the first episode


Hey everybody, Jessica here from Sparrow Doula Services. As promised, tonight kicks off the first episode of the “Ask Your Doula Series” where I take questions that I get often and answer them.


You’ve seen me talk a lot about Labour Doula, Labour and Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula and I know that can be kind of confusing so first I am going to explain specifically what each Doula is and also how these services can apply to you. Just so everyone has a clearer understanding as to what a Labour and Birth Doula is and also a Postpartum Doula.


First let’s explain what a Doula is. The word Doula is an ancient Greek term which means “woman’s slave”. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the definition for a doula is “a person trained to provide evidence, information, and emotional support, physical comfort to a mother before, during and just after childbirth.” And also in the foot note it says “research shows that childbirth does go more smoothly with a doula. Labour is 25% shorter, the need for an epidural relief is 60% less, and the caesarean section rate is reduced by half,”


Now this is definitely evidence that I would love to dig in deeper to, we will talk a little bit more about it a little bit but I love to chat about these stats more maybe in another video.

The modern explanation is that a Doula is a person experienced with birth who offers support to a labouring mother prenatally, during labour and birth as well as in the postpartum period. So what is the difference?


A labour and birth doula empowers clients by providing information, emotional support, and physical comfort. Before I go any further, any information that I give to my clients is completely evidence based. I don’t stick any of my biases in there, all information I provide to my clients is strictly evidence based information. That way you can make your own decisions based on what the evidence shows you.


Doulas are also non-medical. That means that we don’t perform any tasks that a doctor, nurse or midwife would perform. So, I do not offer any medical support or advice that is what a health care provider is there for. As a doula I don’t replace your health care provider, I don’t replace partners, I don’t replace support people, I don’t replace a doctor or a midwife, rather I am there as an additional support to your maternity team. As a doula I compliment the support that you already have in place.


Again, as a doula I do not replace anyone I am there as a complimentary role.

We empower women and the partner to make informed choices that they are comfortable with and I am also there to empower you to ask the right questions and how to ask those questions to your primary care (Dr, OBGYN….) and to also empower you to speak up for yourself in those situations as well.


Your doula is a constant source of comfort, support and information during the whole entire process. So, unlike nurses after their shift they leave and you might get a new nurse, as a doula, I am there no matter how long your labour is. Whether your labour is 45 minutes, that’s awesome, or 24 hours, that is also awesome, and I am there for the whole thing.


As a doula I am not only there for you but for you partner as a trained professional that can help them participate how they are comfortable in the situation and help them process the emotions. There is a lot happening and emotions can run wild during this period and so, I am there to help you process what you are going through but also to help your partner process what they are experiencing also.

I am a non-biased support. I leave my biases at the door and I am there to strictly help you and the birth that you want to have.


I do not make decisions or speak for you I empower you to speak for yourself.

I am the physical support and am also trained in non-medical comfort measures. As you have seen me post a lot over the past week about Rebozos; that is one of the non-medical comfort measures that I use during the labour and birth experience but is also something that we can use during the postpartum period as well.


A meta-analysis of multiple doula studies showed a 36% reduction in pain meds

51% reduction in caesareans sections

71% reduction in Pitocin

34% fewer negative birth experiences

These are all crazy statistics and I encourage you to do your own research on the statistics behind doulas and what other studies have shown.


That is the basic nutshell of what a labour and birth doula is but for me some of the services that I offer as a birth doula are:

One consultation (free), there is no obligation after having our consultation. During the consultation we discuss your plans, answer questions and there is no obligation to hire me after the consultation.

We have two pre-birth meetings where we discuss your birth plan and in the second meeting we talk about comfort measures as well.

For two weeks prior to your due date, and after because we know that babies come when they want and due dates aren’t the end game I offer 24 hour support.

Attendance to the birth, a few hours after the birth during recovery and to make sure you are settled and once you feel comfortable I will leave and let you have time with your new baby, and then 2 postpartum visits whether that is still in the hospital or once you return home.

So that is the Labour and Birth Doula in a nut shell.


Secondly, we are going to talk about a Postpartum Doula and what does that mean.

Unlike a Birth Doula I come in after the birth. Postpartum doulas typically start within the first week postpartum and can be supporting the client up to a year after and it completely depends on the family and the circumstance. A postpartum doula provides support physically, emotionally and information. Like I said before, completely evidence based information.


Postpartum doulas are often more knowledgeable in the recovery process, feeding baby, breast feeding, bottle feeding, tube feeding, cup feeding… there’s many options there and as a postpartum doula we are knowledgeable in all of them.


Postpartum Doulas come into the home usually on an hourly basis. We are hired on an hourly basis and for me my packages start at 8 hours and increase from there.


We are knowledgeable in newborn care and come into the home to assist in that. I also offer the option for the mom to take a quick nap, or shower or to eat something while I watch the baby. Light house work, such as doing dishes and laundry. Running errands and sibling support, but of course with postpartum care whatever the family needs that is what the postpartum doula helps with.


Again I offer a complimentary consultation, typically before the baby is born. That way I can meet you the siblings if there is going to be siblings, the pets, just meet everyone beforehand that way we can have a goal set up before the baby is born although that can change after the baby is born. I also schedule my hours before then that way I am not walking in saying okay what is it that you want me to do, when do you want me to come? We will already have that planned out so it is one last thing you will have to worry about. That way you know, 4 days after the baby is born the doula is coming and this is what we want her to do.


Some doulas also offer overnight support and this is something that I also offer and can be discussed during our consultation and when we sign the contract.


Just to wrap up:

All services I offer are adjustable to each client and situation, there is no cookie cutter plan, each family and situation is different and I adjust my services to your family.

I do offer Payment Plans, you do not have to pay for the services in a lump sum which is something that can also be discussed in a consultation.

Like I said before information and education I offer is always evidence based. Complimentary consultations are free with no obligation to sign contract after

That concludes the first episode of Ask the Doula Series,


I hope this gives you a little bit clearer understanding of what a doula is and what my role as a doula is. If you have any questions feel free to comment below and maybe have your question featured in the next episode.



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Jessica Vanderlaan Certifying Doula 

Tel: 1-506-435-1116

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