Can My Nurse be My Doula?

The short answer is no, but doulas and nurses make a great team. Modern birthing people have come to desire the support of a doula in addition to the support of the medical team. Support from both doulas and L&D nurses can achieve the best and safest outcomes for laboring women.

Let’s talk about these two individual roles to understand and appreciate the differences of each. 

Nurses are medical professionals that focus on ensuring you have a medically safe birth.They are responsible for communicating with care providers, fetal monitoring, IV medications, medical charting, and the overall medical safety of mom and baby. They do SO MUCH, and have so many responsibilities. 

Doulas are non-medical professionals that offer emotional, informational, and physical support. 

They provide support throughout pregnancy, and continuous one-on-one birth support throughout labor. Doulas continue to support families after they go home, and throughout the early postpartum period. 

The typical nurse works an 8 or 12 hour shift, but the typical labor averages between 12-24 hours. When a nurse is done with her shift, it’s time for the next nurse to begin theirs. Doulas do not change shifts, and we only focus on and work for you. 

When you come into a hospital there is no interview process before your nurse is assigned to you. The opportunity to establish a connection, or a relationship with a person that will share one of the most intimate moments in your life does not exist. Your doula is the person you have CHOSEN to attend your birth. We have built a relationship and have gotten to know you, and your birth goals.

Many L&D nurses have chosen their profession out of a desire to care for laboring women, but often they are split between providing physical support, and ensuring medical safety. This is often challenging and lessens their ability to give the type of continuous support that will impact outcomes.

Even when obstetric nurses are trained as doulas and provide labor support in addition to their clinical nursing duties they do not have the same effect on birth outcomes as when a woman has both a nurse and a doula. “ Continuous labor support by nurses had no effect on the cesarean delivery rates or other medical or psychosocial outcomes ”( Hodnett et al., 2002 ).

Doulas are not nurses, nurses are not doulas, and that is OK! We each have separate but complementary roles to play in helping families have safe and satisfying birth experiences.  


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