7 Different Types of Doulas and What They Do
By PPFA | Dec. 9, 2021, 9:04 a.m.
Doulas support many different types of people going through a range of life experiences — including death, gender transition, birth, and abortion. Some doulas have a specific focus, while others provide a range of care. But all doulas advocate for and support their clients in situations where they may feel alone, ignored, or dismissed.
People hire doulas to fill a variety of roles. Here are some of the different types of care that doulas offer, in their own words.
Lauren Valentine - she/her - Death Doula
A death doula works with folks at the end of their lives or with a family member experiencing loss. Death doulas allow the dying person and those close to them to speak openly about dying, offer the dying person an opportunity to explore the meaning of their life and their impact on others, and prepare for the last days by creating a plan for how the dying space looks and feels — for example, music, sounds, readings, and rituals.
As a death doula, I work together with hospice and palliative care services to offer an additional level of care for the dying person and their family, and help set up end-of-life plans and legacy work.
What is a transition doula?
Luar Adonis Wolf, CD, CBE, CLSC, CSFD - they/she/ella/elle - Transition Doula
A (trans)ition doula is a caregiver and companion to the expansive spectrum of gender-affirming transitions — including hormone, surgical, non-medical, and herbal transitions — for people who are queer, trans, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, or otherwise seeking gender-affirming care. We provide support, advocacy, and education to clients going through their gender transitions.
This looks like, but isn’t limited to:
Providing a toolkit of comprehensive resources and referrals in their communities that center QTGNCNB+ health care.
Attending hormone shot trainings with clients in order to help or support them during self-injections.
Helping clients before and after surgical procedures.
Being a trauma-informed, compassion-centered caregiver to QTGNCNB+ clients in need of nourishment, wellness, and recovery support.
Who are Indigenous doulas?
Becki Jones - she/they - Diné Full Spectrum Doula
An Indigenous full spectrum doula holds space for Indigenous clients and tries to find resources and medicine associated with their specific tribal territory or nation.
As a Diné full-spectrum doula, I’m knowledgable about birth, miscarriage, and abortion, as well as Diné culture and traditions. I’m able to support Indigenous clients by sharing Diné creation stories around birth and abortion, as well as holding Diné ceremonial knowledge around birth, miscarriage, and abortion.
What is a birth doula?
Makina Table, MPH, CD (DTI) - she/her - Labor and Birth Doula
Birth doulas provide different types of support to pregnant people during the various stages of pregnancy such as the prenatal period, labor, and delivery. This can include:
Physical support — like labor and pushing positions, massage, and breathwork.
Educational support — like childbirth education, referrals to resources and services, sharing information.
Nonjudgmental emotional support — like listening and encouragement.
Doulas don’t replace medical providers like doctors, midwives, and nurses. Rather, we provide support and uninterrupted attention in places where and times when medical providers cannot or do not.
Doulas can also help reduce the impacts of racial bias, gender bias, and other types of inequity in health care settings. In many cases, particularly in Black, Latino, Indigenous, low-income, and/or LGBTQIA+ communities, we advocate for the pregnant person navigating a health care system that often discriminates against them or doesn’t meet their needs. We help ensure their voices are heard and that any medical information they get is clear and thorough.
What is a postpartum doula?
Symone New - she/her - Full Spectrum Doula
Postpartum doulas provide support after birth during the new journey into parenthood, even for those who are already parents. Going from months of being the center of attention during pregnancy to suddenly feeling secondary can be an isolating transition. And it’s especially difficult if you don’t have the chance to process your pregnancy and birth experience, or the new responsibilities that come with your evolving identity as a parent.
Postpartum doulas may offer help with breastfeeding, bathing, swaddling, or watching the baby while the parent or caregiver rests, showers, and heals. We may cook meals, provide light housekeeping services, keep pets or older children entertained, or simply listen to them and give emotional support. We also provide information about resources like parenting groups, and referrals to specialists who can help with postpartum depression, lactation, and other needs specific to new parents or their families.
What is an abortion doula?
Rae Pickett - she/hers - Full Spectrum Doula
Abortion doulas are trained to offer physical, mental, emotional support before, during, and after an abortion. We support the whole person, their family, and the community by:
Answering questions about the abortion process;
Addressing myths and misinformation about abortion;
Offering calming touch, massage, guided meditation, and visual relaxation to help ease any pain, anxiety, or discomfort; and
Helping people get childcare, plan meals, and access behavioral health and other types of support they may need to be able to access abortion
People who I’ve supported through birth have come back to me later in their lives for abortion support and vice versa. I feel honored that people trust me to support them through both experiences without judgment.
What is a fertility doula?
Jade F. Hillery, MPH, CD(DTI), CFSD, CBE - she/hers - Full Spectrum Doula
Fertility doulas support people on their pathway to pregnancy and parenthood. The care we provide can be:
Emotional — holding space for someone’s feelings during their journey, helping people establish boundaries, and creating plans for self-care.
Informational — preparing for doctor’s appointments, offering fertility education and research, or giving referrals for local resources.
Physical — sharing relaxation and mindfulness techniques, and being there with clients during health visits.
It can make a difference when you have someone with you throughout this process who offers nonjudgmental support. A fertility doula can also connect you with additional resources to create a holistic care team or help you through a loss — which is also sometimes part of the fertility and pregnancy journey.
Read other blogs in the Doula series: "What Is a Doula" and "Why I Became a Doula."