Melissa Harrell, Ph.D. - Birth and Postpartum Doula

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a birth doula?

As your birth doula, I will support you on the heart, mind, and body levels. This means helping you clarify your birth vision and write your birth plan; teaching and guiding you through movement, breathing, and mindfulness techniques to support your comfort in labor; helping you understand pros and cons of medical information; serving as your advocate as I partner with nurses and doctors; and holding space during your most vulnerable and powerful moments. Your doctor or midwife and nurses will be focused on your medical needs and will be in and out throughout your labor. But as your doula, I will focus on your holistic wellbeing and stay by your side until your baby is in your arms.

What are the benefits and risks of having a birth doula?

Researchers recently combined the results of 26 separate research studies, involving 15,000 participants, to understand the impact of having a doula on birth outcomes. You can read more about this work here. They found that having continuous labor support from anyone (e.g., doula, friend or family member, hospital staff) decreased c-section rate, use of medication, length of labor, and dissatisfaction with birthing experience. In other words, it helps to have someone by your side. Additionally, they found an even greater reduction in c-section rate and increase in spontaneous vaginal birth when this support was provided by a doula.

Unlike most things, which have both benefits and risks, doula care is not associated with any known risks.

If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”
-Dr. John H. Kennell (researcher, pediatrician, and doula advocate)

Which types of birth do you support?

Every person and every birth is different and you deserve to have the birth that is right for you! My goal is to support you in achieving that. I am comfortable supporting births at hospitals, birthing centers, or homes. I support all types of birth (e.g., all-natural, induction, or c-section) and I trust you to decide if and how you use pain medication during your birth. There is a lot to consider as you make each of these decisions. What matters to me is that you have the information you need to make informed choices and that your voice is heard and respected during your birth.

Is a doula still helpful if I'm planning to have an epidural?

Yes! It's true that if you choose to have an epidural, you may need less support coping with contractions. However, a doula is still very beneficial. For example, I can provide information about ways to reduce the risk of other interventions and keep your labor moving forward. You will also likely benefit from more hands-on support to change positions during labor and coaching and physical support during pushing. And no matter your choice on pain medication, you deserve heart, body, and mind support throughout your birth.

What areas do you serve?

I support births in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.

What support do you offer my birth partner?

As your birth doula, I will not replace your partner. Rather, I will support you both. Birth partners often want to help but don't know where to start. After all, seeing someone you love in pain can be a difficult and overwhelming experience. I provide gentle coaching and suggestions for ways they can support you. Often this involves demonstrating positions for the two of you, teaching comfort techniques, and encouraging closeness. But at a recent birth it meant going on a run to pick up In-and-Out Burger. Like all of my work, my birth partner support varies depending on the needs of the situation. :)

Birth is often a long process and your partner may need to take breaks to eat, sleep, or even take a few deep breaths. Having a doula ensures there is always someone by your side.

When is the best time to hire a doula?

It's best if you contact me as early as possible. I'd like to have 2-3 prenatal sessions to help you prepare for birth. Plus you'll get most benefit if you have time to practice the skills we discuss. Additionally, since I also work as a researcher, teach mindfulness and yoga, and am a mama, I only take 1-2 births per month.

Do you offer a sliding scale?

This is my purpose in life and I believe that everyone deserves a doula. If you are not able to afford my rate, please get in touch and we can discuss ways to make it work.