So what's a virtual doula anyway?

So what's a virtual doula anyway?

Written by Leigh Ann Sharp / 21.10.2018 / Views

I recently added virtual doula packages to the options I provide for families. The idea came about in response to a few requests I received for different kinds of support. Some families want guidance and support during pregnancy and someone they can trust who is available to answer their questions, but don't feel like they need extra hands at the birth. Or perhaps the price of a traditional doula is just not feasible for the family budget, but rather than go without a doula completely, this lower-priced package is a better fit. A virtual doula is a great way to spend less and still have access to many of the same kinds of resources.


A virtual doula may be right for you if:


  • You don't want another person in the birth room - either because you don't have space, there is a room limit, or you really want this to be an intimate experience shared between yourself and your partner
  • You're on a tight budget. The virtual packages I offer are deeply discounted from my regular rates. More on this later.
  • You live in a rural area or a small town where there aren't a lot of doulas, or the ones who are there are already booked. In Houston where I'm at, there are over a hundred doulas to choose from, so you're guaranteed to find someone available around your due date, but this isn't the case for a lot of towns.


How does it work?


Traditional (in-person) doula services include two prenatal visits, unlimited phone and email support, in-person support during labor, and a postpartum visit. With virtual doula services, all prenatal and postpartum visits are done virtually - ideally a video conference call like Zoom or Skype, or FaceTime. You still get unlimited phone and email support, and you get regular emails along the way with valuable information, suggestions, or things to consider. The biggest difference is that instead of someone physically attending your birth, the doula is available by phone if you have questions or need support. Sometimes just knowing someone is in your corner cheering you on makes a big impact!


Other things to consider


There is strong evidence for having a doula physically by your side in labor (see this article), and virtual options really can't compare. Obviously a virtual doula won't be able to massage your back, squeeze your hips during a contraction, or read the energy of the room in quite the same way. So if it's really important to you to have a doula by your side, then a virtual doula probably isn't the solution for you. And that's okay - hire a doula! 

But on the other hand, keep in mind that a lot of work is done before you even get to the birth room. Your doula can help you think through your options, identify any red flags, put together a reasonable plan of things within your control for achieving your ideal birth. This is why prenatal visits are so important. Maybe you desperately want to avoid a c-section, but your hospital and doctor of choice have a high c-section rate. Your doula can help you think through your options to see if you want to switch providers or make additional preparations before you go into labor. Deciding when to go to the hospital can be another big factor in the birth outcome. Your doula can help ease your mind and help you decide when to go to the hospital, based on your birth goals.


Every family's circumstances and needs are unique. Whatever you decide, whether a doula who will be physically with you in labor, or a virtual support option, your doula is there to support you every step of the way!