Can doulas come to the hospital?

Pregnant woman, husband, and doula

Doulas offer support to mothers and help them make informed decisions, enhancing their overall birthing experience.

Historically, doulas assisted women at home or in birthing centers. However, hospitals are increasingly encouraging doulas to provide in-person labor support.

“As a unit, we have made strides to make it possible for the patient to have their doula present at all times,” says Nebraska Medicine labor and delivery nurse Jessica McGhee, RN, BSN.

What is a doula?

Many people are still unfamiliar with the role of doulas and the valuable support they provide to mothers.

“A doula is not a member of your family or a friend, and they are not employed by the hospital,” explains Nebraska Medicine labor and delivery nurse Kate Novotny, RN, BSN, RNC-OB. “They support your emotional, physical and informational well-being during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.”

Some doulas focus on being continuously present through birth, while others have longer relationships with their clients. A doula might be hired in early pregnancy and continue through birth and into postpartum.

One important way doulas help their clients is by holding space for them, Novotny says.

“They protect the space around you so that you can speak for yourself,” she says. “They don’t speak for you. They don’t make decisions for you.”

Doulas are not medical providers

Novotny says it is a common misconception that doulas do things like measure blood pressure or check the patient’s cervix.

“It’s interesting in our culture that we don’t understand why it would be important for someone to just be with you, listen to you and help you remember what your power is,” she says.

Having been a doula for 20 years and a nurse for 15 years, Novotny has witnessed firsthand misunderstandings about doulas by health professionals.

“A misconception is that doulas are argumentative or antagonistic or trying to make trouble or impede care,” she says. “None of those things are true. Their goal is to make sure that the space around the birthing person is honored, meaning they have time, don’t feel rushed, have their physical needs met and are heard by their providers.”

The benefits of having a doula

Including a doula in your birth plan can bring numerous benefits. These include:

1. Emotional support: Doulas provide continuous emotional support and create a safe and nurturing environment for expectant mothers. They offer reassurance, comfort and encouragement throughout the entire journey.

2. Advocacy and education: Doulas empower mothers with evidence-based information and education about pregnancy, childbirth and newborn care. They help expectant parents make informed decisions and advocate for their preferences and needs.

3. Continuous presence during labor: Doulas offer continuous support, ensuring that mothers feel supported and cared for. This presence can help reduce anxiety, manage pain and provide a sense of security during the intense and transformative experience of childbirth.

4. Physical comfort measures: Doulas are trained in various techniques to provide physical comfort during labor, such as massage, positioning and breathing exercises. They can help alleviate pain and discomfort, promoting a more positive birth experience.

5. Partner involvement: Doulas also support partners and help them navigate their roles during childbirth. They can provide guidance on how partners can actively participate, offer suggestions for support and facilitate communication between the couple and the health care team.

6. Postpartum support: Doulas may extend their support to the postpartum period, assisting with breastfeeding, newborn care, emotional adjustment and recovery. They can provide a nurturing presence and offer practical help during the early weeks of parenthood.

Improving Black maternal health

Doulas can help improve Black maternal health outcomes by providing culturally sensitive support, advocacy and education.

McGhee collaborates with midwife Heather Ramsey, APRN-CNM, to provide specialized training to emerging doulas through the Doula Passage Program, sponsored by I Be Black Girl, an Omaha nonprofit.

“Nebraska Medicine has come a long way in supporting the doula world,” McGhee says. “Through sponsorships, like with I Be Black Girl, they are helping doulas feel comfortable in a hospital setting and improving Black maternal health.”

For Black women in the Omaha area who are interested in having a doula but may have financial restraints, I Be Black Girl and A Mother’s Love offer various resources. Additionally, through the Black Birth Equity Fund, Dove offers grants for doula support.

There is also a legislative effort to allow Medicaid to cover doula services in Nebraska. If passed, the bill would provide full-spectrum doula services by Jan. 1, 2026.

Learn about your pregnancy and labor options at the Olson Center by calling 800.922.0000.