By no means are doulas new, but the way we’ve come to view them is for sure evolving on the regular. And what I mean to say is that for so long we’ve viewed them through this narrow scope as birth workers only. However, as the world progresses there has become an expansion in the types of doulas readily available to serve the community.
Typically, doulas are defined as “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to their client before, during, and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” This is according to DONA International or Doulas of North America. Allow me to also point out that while doulas can also double as health professionals, the role of a doula alone is not that of a health professional.
However, similar professionals are using the label doula to provide the “healthiest, most satisfying” experience in various life events or activities that deserve minimal trauma and maximum joy (and a reframe that allows for it in even the bleakest circumstances).
In this day and age, there are at least 9 different types of doulas you can seek out and while many of them are in regards to bearing children, you might be surprised to find what the other types of doulas’ work consist of.
1. Labor and Birth Doula
The type of doula we most commonly recognize is a labor and birth doula. They are the OG doula in the game and their work aligns most with the aforementioned definition – their specialty lies in providing prenatal, labor, and delivery care which includes advocating for patients. This makes them especially appealing to Black women who have an alarmingly high maternal mortality rate.
Doulas are a reminder that advocacy comes in so many forms including education, which is part of the prenatal doula service offered. They provide the tools and guidance sometimes necessary to create a birth plan; show you positions that most OBs won’t bother mentioning that help make all stages of labor easier; and so much more.
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2. Sensuality/Sexuality Doula
While the concept is rather new and seems to be carried by self-proclaimed sensualist and sexuality doula Ev’Yan Whitney, I believe this is one of the most necessary types of soul experiences. On their website, Ev’Yan states that their duties include the following: “[To] educate, facilitate, support, guide, and hold space for folks who are ready to step out of shame, confusion, and fear within their sexuality and want to come into authentic expression of their sexual, sensual selves—whatever that looks like for them.”
For me, a sexuality expert could potentially be helpful to people wanting to be pregnant because the way we view sex and our bodies during and after pregnancy can be largely associated with the shame we’ve been taught—this is why I stand by it being one of the most imperative, overarching categories of service offered by a doula.
3. Death Doula
4. Antepartum Doula
While birth doulas come in during the labor and postpartum doulas come in afterward, antepartum doulas come in at any point for moms-to-be who need mental health support. Because yes, pregnancy blues is a thing, and no, not everyone enjoys the transition that is pregnancy. They also help out with moms who have medical restrictions, such as bed rest for those who simply need help due to having multiple children.
5. Postpartum Doula
Postpartum doulas sweep in after you’ve delivered your baby and support you in the 4th trimester, where both you and the baby are finding a new identity—yours more intertwined with your little bundle of joy. These doulas will come over to the house and hold the baby while you shower, clean the house, or take a nap.
Some might even bring you meals to be sure you’re eating, which is just one way that they provide breastfeeding support. This is a service they offer regardless of whether you have a spouse or not, whether you have multiple children or not.
6. Abortion Doula
Abortion doulas pick up the slack and possibly are even more helpful than abortion clinic counselors who are required to read a state-mandated checklist, legally. They answer questions (often debunking bullshit myths) before and after abortion, and help arrange childcare and nutritious meals for their clients seeking abortion care.
They also offer calming touch and massage with their clients' consent to minimize pain, discomfort, or anxiety. I do, however, wonder how the scope of their role will shift in a post-Roe society.
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7. Fertility Doula
More and more people trying to get pregnant are seeking fertility treatments. However, even if you have never sought out fertility treatment, one thing the mainstream dialogue around the topic has taught us is that it’s not an easy process. With that in mind, fertility doulas offer support to clients individually and with their families. Similar to every other type of doula, they provide resources, knowledge, and in some cases physical support.
8. Indigenous Doula
This is another all-encompassing type of doula here! An indigenous doula is here to accomplish advocacy that ensures indigenous people's cultural practices are carried out in every trimester of childbearing, including the fourth. They also make sure they have a positive overall experience, given the fact that so many minority pregnant people do not have the most positive birthing experiences.
9. Transition Doula
“Transition” doula is a very vague term, meaning it can be tricky figuring out just what it means. With a quick Google search, you might find death doulas also referring to themselves as transition doulas and even birth doulas who offer all the mommy services, from labor to postpartum (because it’s…well…transitional). But it can best be understood as a gender doula, or a doula who provides companionship and such to the growing spectrum (queer, non-binary, trans, etc.). They are mainly there to support various transitions including but not limited to medical, non-surgical, and herbal.
Doulas are there to provide comfort and support during major life events. In a world of capitalism, they are as person-centered as possible with goals that prioritize helping underserved communities. In fact, during my pregnancy I’ve had the help of three doulas splitting the work of one—they’ve provided me with resources, meals when I couldn’t find it in me to cook nutritiously, and will be by my side in labor and delivery.
And in some cases, you might be able to find a doula who offers a combination of these services, whether it be postpartum and antepartum, sexuality and postpartum, abortion and transition. Doulas are here to help and support the collective, not a capitalistic agenda and that’s what makes them so great!
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