What is a Doula?

"If a woman doesn't look like a goddess in labour, then someone isn't treating her right"

Ina May Gaskin

Doula is a Greek word meaning "woman caregiver". A doula is someone who is not medically trained, but who offers support and guidance during pregnancy, during labour and birth, and shortly after birth.

Pregnant Woman in Brown
Water Birth
Mother Breastfeeding Baby

Benefits of having a doula

According to evidence** there are plenty of benefits and positive outcomes related to having a doula present for your birth. These benefits includes:

  • Reduced rates of pain medication during labour and birth

  • Reduced rates of C-sections

  • Reduced rates of medical interventions 

  • Shorter labours

  • Increased rates of breastfeeding and enhanced bonding

  • Your partner can participate with more confidence

  • A more positive birth experience

Who can benefit from having a doula?

Anyone who desires can benefit from having a doula present at birth. A doula supports all kinds of births, and will help and support the mother and partner in their specific wishes and decisions. A doula does not judge, and does not offer advice on what parents should or should not do. Every birth is unique, and every birthing mother should be allowed to birth the way she desires, feeling empowered and supported in a manner that matches her personality, specific situation, and needs. For this reason, it is important that parents choose a doula that they trust and feel comfortable with, and that parents and doula spend time during pregnancy to get to know each other and discuss wishes, expectations, fears, and anything else of importance for the birth experience. 

What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?

A midwife is a medical professional. During pregnancy and birth, their main responsibility is to make sure that the mother and baby are healthy and that the baby is born safely. They take care of all medical procedures such as listening to heartrates, measuring blood pressure, receiving and examining the baby after birth etc. 

A doula is not a medical professional. A doula does not take responsibility for any medical procedures, and does also not give advice in such matters. A doula is present to provide emotional and physical support to the birthing mother. A doula will be 100% present with the mother throughout the process, caring for her emotional wellbeing and physical comfort. The level and type of support a doula can offer depends largely on the needs and expectations of the specific mother and her partner (when applicable). Below are some examples of how a doula can help.

How a doula can support the mother:

  • Help the mother feel confident in her ability, and trust in her body and her instincts

  • Help the mother relax during labour and birth using different relaxation and breathing techniques

  • Provide physical support in terms of different comfort measures such as counter pressure and massage

  • Offer explanations of what is happening

  • Stay by the mother's side from the moment she wishes until after the birth

  • Help parents receive correct information in order to be able to make informed decisions about their birth

  • Suggest different positions for labour and birth

  • Remind the mother to hydrate, eat, and make bathroom breaks as suitable

  • Tend to the birthing environment to minimize distractions and make sure the mother feels safe and comfortable

How a doula can support the partner:

  • Offer reassurance and explanations

  • Stay by the mother's side if the partner needs to rest or leave for a moment

  • Offer guidance on how to support the mother if desired

  • Share the responsibility with the partner so the partner is free to offer support in a way that he/she feels comfortable with

**Klaus M.A., Kennell J.H., Klaus P.H. (2012). The Doula Book. How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth (3rd ed.). Da Capo Press.