Celebrity moms like Molly Sims have happily talked about laboring with a doula, but is it something that the average person can get into? For the uninitiated, doulas might seem like a crunchy option for the uber-organic pregnancy set. But in reality, doulas are available for every kind of birthing process, including home births, fully medicated hospital births and everything in between. Below are a few tips to help clear up the basics of who a doula is and what to expect if you hire one for your baby’s birth.

Pregnant Woman Reading Information Booklet At Home With Health Visitor

1. Who Are Doulas: Doulas are trained labor and delivery coaches. They’re essentially professional birthers. You may be picturing some earth-mother type with crystals and patchouli, but in reality, they’re often real women like you who are hooked on helping other mamas bring healthy babies into the world. In a nutshell, a doula’s a hired expert and helper who can provide prenatal consultation, labor and delivery support and postpartum care.

2. How a Doula Is Beneficial: In a study by the American Journal of Managed Care, the presence of a doula at birth shows to reduce the need for assisted births (by c-section, forceps or vacuum extraction), reduce labor time, minimize the use of drugs during birth and can provide an overall more positive delivery experience. A doula can also give support to your birth partner so they can provide effective support to you. Doulas are also a great resource for women who do not have birth partners or who have partners who may be squeamish or otherwise unreliable throughout labor and delivery.

3. What a Doula Does: A doula’s services can include everything from education about the birthing process, assistance with creating a birth plan, support throughout labor and delivery and help once you’re home with the baby. When the big delivery day comes, a doula will work with you to support the labor you’ve planned. This can include providing pain management techniques, answering questions when you’re not sure what’s happening and being an advocate for your comfort and preferences. She’s 100 percent on your team and looking out for you.

Mother feeding baby meeting with in-home health visitor

4. What a Doula Won’t Do: Doulas are *not* medical professionals and they won’t perform medical procedures, give medical advice, prescribe medication or get in the way of medical staff. Doulas also won’t get between you and your birth partner, unless it’s requested.

5. How to Find a Doula: There are quite a few ways to start searching for a doula. Some OB/GYN practices and birthing centers fully embrace the doula experience and may have some referrals for you. So it’s not a bad idea to start by asking your doctor or hospital if they know of any good doulas in their professional network. There are also a few sites — like Doulas of North America (DONA) and The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE) — to check out that can give more info on doula services.

Did you hire a doula for your child’s birth? Tell us about your experience @BritandCo!