Hiring a doula for the births of my children was one of the best decisions I made, and I’d highly recommend it to any of my maternity clients (but we’ll get to that shortly). Since I know that many of my clients are considering whether or not to hire a doula and/or looking for a great one, I decided to research the best Boston doulas to give you a starting place.
I felt that the best way to objectively quantify the “best” was to figure out who actual moms are recommending most, so I scoured dozens of previous posts asking for recommendations for doulas in Boston-based mom groups totaling over 10,000 moms. I miiiiiiiight have spent too much time on this, but my loss of time going down this rabbit hole is your gain ;). For the purposes of this article, I’m including the 5 most frequently recommended Boston doulas for birthing parents as well as reasons you might want to work with a birth doula. I will write another post on postpartum doulas since that’s another wonderful service but different enough to warrant its own post.
This post is split into two sections: a more general section for those of you perhaps still considering a doula followed by a section dedicated to my list of the best Boston doulas. Check out the table of contents at the top of this post if you want to skip around.
What is a doula and why hire one?
First things first: why hire a doula? Doulas serve a very specific purpose for birthing people: they are there to provide support and comfort during labor and immediately afterward. They are not medical professionals, so they do not take the place of other providers, but they will work with providers to enhance your labor and delivery experience.
They know a lot of ways to comfort you.
Certified doulas know all sorts of methods to comfort you during your labor, from massage to meditation to words of encouragement and so much more. Since every birth is different, doulas will tailor the experience to each client.
They’ve seen it all before, and they’ll support you unconditionally.
Doulas know that birth can be unpredictable and that each person responds differently to it. Some are loud, others are quiet, some swear, others apologize to the medical staff, and some have moments of all of the above. No one knows how they will react to labor until they are in labor. I had two very different experiences between my own two births. Doulas are trained to see all of this as normal and can respond without losing their composure.
One of the things that was comforting to me was that my doula knew the birthing process much better than I did—I truly felt that nothing would surprise her. Her calmness helped me stay calm. Birth is an intense experience, and walking through it with a calm, knowledgeable professional makes a big difference.
They can help you reach your goals for your birth, unmedicated or not.
I’m not here to say that any kind of birth is better than another kind, because any birth in which the mother feels empowered to make the choices that are right for her is a good birth! Any good doula is not going to have an agenda of her own for your birth. Want to try for a natural, unmedicated labor? A doula can help you reach your goal with non-pharmacological comfort methods. Want an epidural as soon as you can get one? A doula can help you manage the intensity of labor until you’re able to get one, and they can also suggest or help you into positions that can keep labor moving after you get your epidural.
Doulas are not just for women who want unmedicated childbirths. They want you to have the experience that is best for you. Plus, epidurals do not always work (I know several mothers who have had unsuccessful epidurals), and it’s always good to have someone there to support you in the case that it doesn’t. Medicated or unmedicated, your doula will encourage and support you every step of the way. Most birthing people prefer to avoid a c-section if it’s possible (it’s a major surgery!)—did you know that having a doula can increase your chances of that?
A 2017 Cochrane review that looked at 26 trials (involving more than 15,000 subjects) found that receiving the continuous support of a doula was associated with a 39% lower likelihood of having a cesarian section (this after controlling for other factors such as risk, etc.). Continuous support in labor also resulted in labors that were shorter by an average of 41 minutes!
They’ll help you remember the small, easily forgotten stuff.
Sometimes the focus that labor needs or the excitement that it brings means you forget some of the basic stuff. In early labor, while you and your doula are texting but she isn’t needed in-person yet, she’ll probably remind you to rest, eat, and relax. This is especially helpful later in the process—I know it sounds crazy, but I can attest that even things like sipping water between contractions and subsequently using the bathroom, which can make labor more comfortable, can be forgotten (did you know that a full bladder can actually hinder labor??). These sound like such small things, but over the course of the entire experience, these small things add up to a a big part of your birthing experience.
You may need an advocate.
You will be at your most vulnerable when you are in labor. While some providers are very respectful and attentive to your birth preferences, others may not be. A good doula will help ensure that your wishes are respected and that you have been presented with ALL options before you make your decisions.
They will help your partner, and they will help your partner help you.
Doulas also support partners if you have one. Sometimes partners don’t know how best to support the laboring person, and doulas can give some direction that is helpful. Doulas don’t make partners into third wheels. Instead, doulas offer suggestions and gentle direction to partners so that the birthing person is MORE supported by their loved one. I think it was my doula who reminded my husband to remember his own hospital bag when we ran out the door to head to the hospital.
Most provide pregnancy, delivery, and/or breastfeeding/chestfeeding education.
As noted above, doulas do not take the place of your medical providers, but they can be really helpful for first-time (and even second-time, etc.) parents in that they have significant education they can pass along about what to expect in your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Many even have additional training beyond what they are required to learn in order to be certified. In my list of recommended Boston doulas below, I’ve tried to note when any given doula has completed extra training or certifications, but I can’t cover everything, so if this is important to you, please ask when you reach out to inquire!
The Top 5 Most Recommended Boston Doulas
All of these Boston doulas were recommended roughly the same amount of times (aka a LOT), so please take the order in which they’re included with a grain of salt. I’ve linked to their websites so that you can check them out if you’d like!
Deep Seed Doula
If a lot of experience is something that you’ve been looking for in your search for Boston doulas, Shari (the woman behind Deep Seed Doula) fits the bill! She has attended 525 births as of November 2021 (so even more by the time you’re reading this!). She’s a Certified Birth Doula through The Organization for Labor Assistants & Birth Resources (TOLABOR), a faculty instructor for Boston Association for Childbirth Education (BACE) and a Spinning Babies Certified Parent Educator. She also offers instruction and tools for belly binding, a healing practice for postpartum mothers. Her website shows that she has also had advanced training in the areas of supporting LGBQ/T families and trauma-informed care.
In her own words, “My deep seeded faith in the birth process prepares me to be a trusted support to laboring families, a model and inspiration to my family. I remain a humble student of the human spirit, blessed to witness the love that transforms a person into a parent, in the course of birth.”
Tranquility by Hehe
Tranquility by Hehe is a growing team of doulas led by Hehe Stewart, founder, that serves Greater Boston and New England. Each doula brings different specialties to the table, including VBAC support, mental health support, and trauma-informed care. Hehe’s passion for making sure that parents understand their options and for empowering them to achieve the birth experience they are hoping for really shows in how she serves her clients.
Hehe offers a number of packages, but they all come with access to her extensive and exclusive evidence-based education portal, The Birth Lounge. In addition to her standard services, she also offers luxury services for mamas who are looking for a little extra pampering (hey, you’re growing a baby—you deserve it!). Her website is full of resources for expecting parents—if I were pregnant again, I would absolutely be checking them out. Many of them are freebies, so you have nothing to lose by taking a look!
You can read about Hehe’s philosophy on her website, but I think it can best be summed up by this quote: “It is important that every parent feels supported in their choices after discussing all possible options. It’s imperative that parents have access to judgment-free spaces, educators, and support. That’s what I want to be for all my clients and their partners.”
Boston Birth Associates
Next on our list of the top 5 most recommended Boston doulas is Boston Birth Associates. They do things differently in that each pregnant person/family works with TWO doulas (who share an on-call schedule) so that you always have a well-rested birth support professional when you need her and for however long you need her.
Boston Birth Associates has a number of labor and postpartum doulas, but they stand out in that their team of 11 professionals (as of January 2022) include specialists in many aspects of the prenatal/postnatal care of women and infants. To name just a few, they have infant care specialists, childbirth educators, certified lactation consultants, an infant sleep specialist, yoga teachers, a prenatal fitness specialist, a belly binding artist, and the list goes on! They even have a maternity concierge who provides event planning (showers, christenings, birthday parties…) and design services for your nursery (or playroom)!
If you’re looking for an experience that goes well beyond pregnancy and birth education, I’d definitely recommend checking out Boston Birth Associates!
Birthing Gently is actually an agency established in Boston in 2002 (although it now also serves a couple other cities, as well). Given that it’s served over 5000 families over the years, it’s no surprise that it’s made a name for itself in the area.
There are actually 20 Boston doulas on the birthing support team, but the agency offers many services beyond birth support. One of the things that really stands out to me is just how much diversity is present here. Some have experienced pregnancy loss, some specialize in LGBTQ births, some are young, some are… not as young, some have a medical background, and several are people of color. That said, not all doulas serve all areas/hospitals in and around Boston.
Of note, some of the doulas at Birthing Gently actually specialize in high-risk pregnancies and cesarean births. Tara Campbell, the agency’s founder, has way more certifications than I can list here. Suffice it to say she has taught courses at prestigious universities, presented at several large conferences, and established a large community program at Massachusetts General Hospital to provide doulas to at-risk and/or low-income patients. She has been on the forefront of the Family-Centered/Gentle Cesarean Section implementation.
Baby Bean is run by Emily Newburg, who has been serving Greater Boston as a doula full-time since 2016. She’s also pursued additional education in Spinning Babies and lactation support. She sees her work of being a doula as “educating, loving, respecting, listening, embracing, advocating for, and assisting a woman prenatally, during labor, childbirth, and after.”
Bonus: A Golden Birth
I can’t leave out my own doula, Bethany Leclerc! She is based in based in Metro West, where she comes highly recommended, but she also serves plenty of clients in Boston. My delivery became a little bit chaotic at the end, but she didn’t blink or miss a beat, and she was right there to support me the whole time when a complex tear was being sewn up (it took 45 mins, no lie). Her presence was very calming for both my husband and me. In addition to her DONA doula certification, she is also a certified lactation counselor and an APPA certified placenta encapsulator.
She’s passionate about making her clients feel seen and heard, which I believe is truly the foundation of empowerment. In her words, “The importance and necessity of a birth doula lies in support, advocacy and education of options for all families. My favorite part of being a doula however is getting to know the families I support. I am constantly blown away by the incredibly wonderful people I meet and the warriors who give everything of themselves to bring their babies into the world.” I absolutely love her and recommend her wholeheartedly.
Hopefully this article has given you a good starting place for your search for Boston doulas! You may also be interested in these related posts:
If you happen to be looking for a maternity or newborn photographer in addition to your search for a prenatal provider, please check out some of my work here (maternity) or here (newborn). I’d love the opportunity to serve you!