Grand Rapids Area Doula Network: Birthing services growing in West Michigan

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – West Michigan mothers and partners looking for professional support throughout their pregnancy may have it easier than before: 26 independent birth advocates, or Doulas, have come together to create the Grand Rapids Area Doula Network.

Doulas are birthing professionals trained to provide education and support during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Doulas work alongside medical doctors or midwives, during home and hospital births, and throughout different phases of labor, to support parents.

Jillian and Darek Hawkins are expecting their first baby girl this October. They told FOX 17 they are planning a natural home birth, and working out a birthing plan and ways to cope with pain management and anxiety with their birth doula.

“It’s really helping women to take power into their hands, and to take charge of their birth, and I think that’s absolutely important,” said Jillian. “It’s really eased my mind a lot, with just knowing that I’m going to have somebody who knows how this all goes down.”

Megan Michelotti is a certified birth doula who collaborated with 26 local doulas to create the Grand Rapids Area Doula Network, and then launched its website.

Michelotti said the website allows medical doctors to refer curious patients directly to a network of doulas, and enables parents to easily research their options.

"People are coming out of hospitals emotionally traumatized, even if they're healthy and their baby's healthy, and it's for lack of information,” said Michelotti.

Michelotti said the word doula is Greek for “a woman who serves,” saying birth and postpartum doulas work as advocates for parents and provide support from comfort to caring for older siblings once a baby is welcomed home.

"There's a gap in training as far as caring for the mom's emotional needs and physical comfort, which is a totally different thing than physical, medical well-being,” said Michelotti.

According to, clinical studies show that mothers who have doulas present at birth tend to have shorter labors with fewer complications. For example, mothers working with doulas reduce the amount of cesarean sections by 26-percent.

The Hawkins told FOX 17 working with their doula has boosted their confidence.

“There is only so much experience that a father without a child can gain through reading books, it’s something you have to live through,” said Darek. “So I feel that it’s something that definitely helps her out and eases her mind, which eases my mind, and going to make this as comfortable and smooth as possible.”

Michelotti reiterated that the idea of who a doulas are is broadening, from religious to pagan doulas, as well as doulas who support either natural, home, or hospital births.

As for the cost of working with doulas, it ranges. The Hawkins said they are paying their birth doula (for three pre-natal visits and birth assistance) about $1,000. However, Michelotti told FOX 17 the average doula cost is $500.

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  • Juliea-Thandi Paige

    We can’t thank you enough for covering this!! Doulas are such an essential part of the whole for women and families.

    I’d like to also say though that Doulas will also attend medicated births and cesareans. There is a place for doulas in every birth setting if the mother feels that she needs extra support. For most of us, empowered birth does not depend on how a woman births or whether or not she had medical intervention. An empowered birth is when a woman feels heard, respected and informed. Our job is to do just that.

    Also, we charge around $750 for births, our client just couldn’t remember and wanted to shoot high. ;)

  • Kathy oakes

    Love that you covered this! We have all been so excited about this project and to have it go live today on Labor Day has been a dream for us! The cost of doulas range, and many of us are happy to barter down services as all. Serenity doulas range from $500-650 for services. Take the time to find the doula that best fits your birth needs and your family. No matter where you birth, or how (natural, epidural, c-section); you deserve to have a doula by your side!

  • Erin

    Thank you for covering this important story! This is overlooked, much needed information that many expecting mothers don’t even know is available to them. There are far too many women in labor not feeling heard, respected, or informed. That is the Doulas job, to empower women with just that as Juliea said above. Very needed. The price seems like an absolute bargain to me, for such an important in event in your family’s life.

  • Jennifer Lee Seif

    I love that you covered this subject. Grand Rapids is a great family city with lots of young families. Birth is a relevant topic to many of us. And having support before, during, and after the birth has a HUGE impact on the way we parent. If we nurture and care for expectant and new parents, they will be able to more easily nurture and care for their new babies. Having a doula may not seem like a major part of that experience until you’ve had a doula walk that road with you. It’s hard to explain the significance of a doula’s presence, but I know it is wonderful, for ANY type of birth – medicated, natural, surgical, home, hospital, first, or fifth. I’m glad to see the collaboration of lots of local doulas through There are many so many lovely doulas. You can be sure to find one who really fits your needs.