What is a Doula?

A doula is someone who provides support to women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth and the early days of parenthood.

The word ‘doula’ originated in Greece and means ‘woman servant or caregiver’. Nowadays, it refers to someone who offers emotional and physical support to a woman and her partner before, during and after childbirth.

Postnatal doulas offer support during the early days and weeks and help families to adjust to the huge change a new baby introduces into their lives, providing general support around the house, feeding support and company for Mum as needed. With many of us living far from our families, and partners only entitled to 2 weeks paternity leave, postnatal doulas are becoming increasingly popular.

According to a 2013 Cochrane Database Systematic Review, “continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labour and birth.”

‘It is becoming increasingly common for women to use a doula in addition to receiving pregnancy care from a midwife. Birth doulas provide flexible and continuous support before, during and often after the child is born. They may help with other children, encourage a partner with support while the child is being born, nurture and support the mother, and give support to help establish breastfeeding’. – NCT

Doulas are not medically trained and don’t replace the midwife or doctors during your pregnancy and birth, but are trained to offer you continuous support through labour as well as help you before and after the birth.

During labour, a doula:

  • Provides emotional support
  • Doulas help to create an environment where the labour hormones can work most effectively
  • Whether a birth is unmedicated or medically complex, a doula brings the benefit of nurturing and reassurance at this important vulnerable time
  • Uses comfort measures
  • Such as breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning
  • Gives information
  • Doulas provide families with evidence-based resources and information so they can make informed decisions about their birth choices
  • Continuously reassures and comforts the mother
  • A doula never leaves the mother’s side
  • Looks after your partner
  • Whoever you choose to be your birth partner, their experience matters too.
  • A doula will show them how them how to support you, guiding them with techniques
  • A doula can gently remind your partner of your wishes on the birth plan if necessary
  • The doula can give them a well-earned break
  • Advocates for the mother and helps facilitate communication between the mother and healthcare professional

Doulas are NOT medical professionals and don’t perform any medical tasks. They don’t bring their personal values into your experience and they don’t judge you or take over the role of your partner. They are there to support you in whatever ways you want and need.

For a brief history of childbirth, and why doulas have become necessary, please visit my History of Childbirth page.