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A doula is a trained, nonclinical caregiving professional who offers continuous physical, emotional and informational support throughout pregnancy, during labor and delivery, and during the postpartum period. Doula care focuses on building trusting and supportive relationships with expectant parents, providing them with information, guidance and resources, including assistance with creating their personalized birth plans.

Doulas provide care and support during pregnancy and labor, and can help facilitate a safer labor and delivery. Women of color in the U.S. experience higher maternal mortality and morbidity rates, and increased access to doula care can help improve health disparities between socioeconomic groups. At Norton Hospital’s downtown location, doula services are provided free of charge to patients of Norton OB/GYN Associates or Norton Women’s Specialists.

Although a doula is not a medical provider such as an OB/GYN or midwife, they can provide a more positive birth experience. They support and encourage patients throughout labor and delivery, focusing on their personalized wishes and desires during childbirth.

Benefits of Doula Care

Studies show how birth doula support can improve the childbirth experience and reduce negative health outcomes for both mother and baby, improving health disparities between socioeconomic groups. The emotional support provided by doulas also can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Pregnant people who use doula service have experienced:

  • Shorter labor times
  • Less anxiety
  • Less depression
  • Fewer cesarean (C-section) deliveries
  • Fewer low birth weight and premature deliveries
  • Less pain relief medication during labor
  • Improved communication between patients and their care team
  • Improved breastfeeding success

What Doulas Do

Doulas provide all types of support for expectant parents throughout each stage of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. They offer a wide range of services that extend beyond traditional medical care, complementing the support provided by health care providers. The role of a doula is multifaceted, including emotional support, informational sharing and guidance, assistance with decision-making, and support during labor.

During Pregnancy

The support of a doula begins during pregnancy and includes:

Emotional Support

Doula care involves building a trusting and supportive relationship with the expectant family. This helps create a safe space for open communication, helping to ease any anxiety and foster a positive mindset throughout pregnancy.

Informational Support

Doulas are a valuable source of information during pregnancy, providing evidence-based knowledge and resources to help empower parents during pregnancy. From discussing the latest research to addressing common concerns and misconceptions about perinatal care, doulas help ensure that expectant families are able to make confident and well-informed decisions about their pregnancy and childbirth.


Doulas can act as an advocate for the expectant parents, encouraging open communication with their care team. By understanding the desires of the family, doulas can facilitate effective communication with health care providers. Doulas also can assist with developing a personalized birth plan and help parents make informed choices that are in line with their health care needs and personal preferences.

Family Support

Doula care can extend beyond the expectant parent and reach other family members, emphasizing the importance of a strong support system during labor. If you have a partner or other trusted loved one joining you during labor, doulas can actively enhance their involvement, communication and cooperation by ensuring they are well-prepared and engaged during the birthing process.

During Labor and Delivery

Acting as a compassionate presence to expectant parents during labor and delivery, the emotional and physical support from a doula can help facilitate a positive birthing experience. Doula support during labor and delivery includes:

Advocacy and Communication

Doulas can advocate for expectant parents, improving communication and collaboration in the delivery room. By acting as a bridge between the family and health care providers, doulas can help ensure that your needs and preferences are effectively communicated.

Physical Support

Doulas provide hands-on physical support to help you remain as comfortable as possible during labor and delivery. Doulas can provide massage and guide you through various birthing techniques, birth position suggestions, relaxation techniques and other comfort and pain relief strategies, tailored to your personalized needs to help ease the birthing process.

After Delivery (Postpartum)

Doulas extend their support beyond labor and delivery, offering important assistance during the postpartum period, easing the transition to parenthood. Doula support after childbirth can include:

  • Emotional support
  • Breastfeeding assistance
  • Newborn care education
  • Help with household tasks
  • Mental health check-ins
  • Family and sibling support
  • Postpartum doula visits
  • Education on postpartum self-care
  • Referrals to support services

Do Doulas Have Medical Training?

Although doulas are not traditional medical professionals, they undergo specialized training to obtain the skills necessary for the comprehensive, holistic support they provide during perinatal care. Perinatal refers to the time close to birth, before and after.

In order for doulas to provide physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, they must complete various training and certification programs. Doulas are intended to complement the services provided by medical professionals. While they can guide you through information and decision-making and provide emotional support and comfort measures, they are not a replacement for the expertise and services provided by a medical care team.

Every Case Is Unique

Every pregnancy and childbirth experience is unique, and while doulas can enhance the overall experience and well-being of expectant families, their services are considered supplementary to professional medical care. Doulas can provide information and helpful guidance, but decisions about medical interventions and treatments should always be made with your health care provider.

Doula Services at Norton Hospital

Norton Healthcare recognizes the value of comprehensive and equitable health care and proudly offers doula services to expectant families at no cost through our Norton Hospital downtown location. Patients of Norton OB/GYN Associates or Norton Women’s Specialists are eligible. For those seeking alternative obstetric services, we also offer a midwife program, further expanding the range of choices for expectant families.

Doulas play a vital role in providing emotional and nonmedical support, offering an additional element to enhance overall perinatal care. Always consult with your health care provider for medical advice and interventions based on your unique needs and circumstances.

What to Expect from Norton Women’s Care

More mothers in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose to deliver their babies at Norton Hospital or Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital than with any other hospital system in the area.

We deliver more than 8,000 babies a year. We’re close to you with more than 90 providers at more than 25 locations around Louisville and Southern Indiana. Choosing Norton Women’s Care gives you many options for how delivery day could go — all with the confidence of knowing that our obstetrics and pediatric specialists are there to help. With Norton Women’s Care, you’ll find:

  • The birth experience you want: You can choose natural childbirth, a midwife, labor tub, nitrous oxide and other birthing options. We’ll recommend a C-section (cesarean section) or induced labor only if it’s medically necessary.
  • Preparation: Our specialists offer the support you need, including free Lamaze and other childbirth classesnew parent classesbreastfeeding supportchild safety classes and more.
  • Confidence and quality in care: Norton Women’s Care has been recognized as High Performing — the highest rating available — for maternity care with fewer complications and C-sections, plus breastfeeding support and other benefits.
  • We offer the highest-level (Level IV) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Louisville and Southern Indiana at Norton Children’s Hospital, and a sophisticated Level III NICU at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
  • Around-the-clock OB/GYN care is available at Norton Hospital and Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital emergency departments.
  • Our board-certified maternal-fetal medicine specialists  can help guide you through a high-risk pregnancy, from treating preexisting diabetes in the pregnant patient to a fetal echocardiogram to diagnose a congenital heart condition before a baby is born.
  • Medicare, Medicaid and most major commercial insurance plans are accepted.
  • Convenient access to your medical record: Communicate with your health care provider, get lab results, renew prescriptions and more through your free Norton MyChart account.

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