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Doulas as a part of the Birth TeamThe morning when my client’s water broke, her midwife called me to let me know some basic information, including when she had gotten there and what the plan was.  We discussed the emotional and labor support needs. Then I came in to do my own assessment on what my client’s non-medical needs were.

She was in early labor, so we had some time to discuss what needs both she and her husband had and make a plan to meet those needs during and after her labor.  Once those were determined, I stepped outside to talk to the nurses.  I verified what their plan of care was, and talked to them about what my client wanted or needed. We also discussed how we could work that into their own decision-making process.

During labor, I provided labor support as agreed upon by all members of the team.  I made sure any questions that my client had were asked. I also worked to see that the rest of the birth team were all on the same page.

In the end, my client ended up feeling cared for and respected by all members of the birth team, and everyone involved was able to provide great care based on teamwork and respect.

Does this sounds like a doula’s dream? Yet this is something I work to teach and provide in my coursework. This is how I give care to my own clients.  I am happy to say, that while it takes a lot of work, and does not always happen, it is possible.  It is one of my goals for this to be the standard of care taught to my students and provided to women everywhere.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you work will all members of the birth team.


  • Stress communication with all member of the birth team.  Go to a prenatal appointment and discuss what your client’s need are and how you can work together to make that happen. Call the hospital to make sure they have what you need and are able to work with the plan.
  • Value your place on the birth team.  You bring a valuable piece to the team.  Not every care provider is going to recognize it, but the more you speak and act with confidence and respect for everyone (including yourself) the more this will be recognized.
  • Take a conflict management course.  I offer a lot of communication education in my course, but there are a lot of courses you can find online or in person.
  • Respect everyone’s knowledge base.  We all come with something to add to the team, and if you want respect, you also need to be able to give it.
  • Learn the lingo.  Medical professionals have been educated in medical terms and research. While doulas do not need to be as educated, you should at least know some basic terms and how to read research so that you can talk in the same language.  Our starter kit includes some of this training.
  • Take a break if you feel yourself getting angry.  Anger simply does not belong in the birth room.  Save that passion for community involvement, not individual clients.


  • Don’t try and change the care provider’s mind while you are caring for their client.  Again, save this when getting involved in the community, not individual clients.
  • Don’t be passive aggressive when communicating with other care providers.  If you have a question, ask it.  If there is something you want to try, discuss it openly with respect.  Always keep the whole birth team in the loop instead of sneaking around behind their back.
  • Don’t give medical advise.  This seems pretty obvious, but I see this being fudged in gray areas, like self induction methods.  Keep in mind that anything used to treat a medical problem or diagnosis is a medical problem even if it is natural.
  • Don’t try and please every doctor or nurse.  You are not going to. But always treat everyone with respect.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Some doctors won’t like this, but it is important that everyone’s voice is able to be heard.

Following these guidelines should give you a good start in creating a birth team that can effectively provide the best care for your client.


Follow Rachel Leavitt:

Rachel has worked as a register nurse (BSN from University of Utah) since 2004 with a work history in Labor and Delivery, NICU and Postpartum Care. She is also the founder of New Beginnings Doula Training which she organized in 2011. When she's not busy being a mother and grandmother, she can be found reading research papers related to some aspect of childbirth.

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