What is a doula?

Doula comes from the Greek word meaning “a woman who serves.” The advent of doulas in the United States comes from the age-old wisdom that women have supported other women in birth from the beginning of time as well as in many cultures still today (sometimes referred to as “social” childbirth because it involves strong bonds among small communities of women).

Women supporting other women in labor is something that’s been happening for thousands of years in a variety of cultures.


A doula provides PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, and INFORMATIONAL support.

Physical support: A doula is skilled in various forms of touch, massage, and comfort measures to help reduce pain and anxiety during labor. She can assist the birth partner by providing another set of hands to help support mom in various positions that are favorable to the type of labor she is experiencing. Some doulas, like myself, are also trained in various techniques, such as Spinning Babies, which can help to prepare a woman for labor as well as reserve a stalled labor.

Emotional support: Having a doula means you have started a relationship with a support person who has seen multiple births. A doula has witnessed the wide arrange of emotions that come with birth. She can comfort and sooth mom’s fears and encourage her in times of difficulty. She will celebrate times of great joy. Having a doula means you have someone by your side consistently attending to the needs of you and your partner.

Informational support: It is important to realize what a doula is not. A doula is not a medical professional. However, she can provide informational support, whether that is locating credible articles and resources regarding birth-related decisions and interventions or reminding the couple of their birth plan as they make decisions throughout the birthing process.

What does a doula do?

As discussed earlier, a doula is NOT a medical professional and cannot make any decisions regarding medical care. A doula is not a midwife and is not licensed to deliver a baby.

Here is what I, your doula, can do for you:

  • I will assist you in a safe and supported birth through physical, emotional, and informational support (see above).
  • I will help you to become an informed decision maker in your birth experience.
  • I will meet with you before the birth to develop a relationship with you (and your partner).
  • I will meet with you once after birth to check in, offer advice, and help connect you with more in-depth resources, if necessary.
  • I will arrange for a back-up doula, in the case of my absence, and I will introduce you to the backup doula before delivery.

What I, your doula, will not do:

  • I do not perform any medical procedures. (doulas are not midwives)
  • I do not make decisions for you, but I can help you make informed decisions.
  • I do not replace your birth partner(s). I am there to assist him/her in helping you.

What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?

See here for a great video explanation: http://fox17online.com/2017/04/11/explainer-the-difference-between-a-midwife-and-a-doula/

If I have my partner with me, do I still need a doula?

While some couples see birth as an experience that should only be shared with certain people or just among each other, many do not feel hindered, but rather helped, by the presence of doula.

A doula’s role is never to replace a supportive partner! A doula can have as much of a hands-on role as the couple sees fit. And a doula would never want to disrupt what is working well between a couple in labor and delivery. This balance will be carefully discussed in prenatal visits.

Many birth partners are extremely grateful for the presence of the doula. Birth can be a very intense time. Having two key support people can be crucial in the very emotional, tiring, and sometimes fast-paced moments. Also, if the birth partner needs to attend to his/her or the baby’s needs, having a doula can ensure that someone never leaves the mother’s side. The doula can also attend to small needs outside the room, so as to not have the birth partner leave mom’s side.

When considering a doula, it is good that both the mother and the partner reflect on asking a doula to share in this memorable experience.

If I choose an epidural, do I still need a doula?

Doulas are not only for women seeking an un-medicated birth, often called a “natural birth.” As your doula, I do not pass any judgment on any of your choices during labor. I do not associate the decision to have an epidural with any kind of “failure” on anyone’s part.

My primary job is to help you achieve the type of birth that you see as best for you – medical considerations having been taken into account – and that is defined by you. In that sense, I can help you become an informed decision maker.

If you choose to have an epidural, there are still positions you can choose to be in while laboring in bed, depending on the strength and type of epidural.

Most importantly, I am always committed to your comfort, emotional support, and seeing that your needs are met.

What is a birth plan?

A birth plan is a document drawn up after careful reflection by the mother and partner. It includes the couple’s values as well as specific feelings regarding the use of various birth-related medical interventions. Having a doula is an excellent resource for guidance when creating a birth plan. She is familiar with the many options presented to women throughout pregnancy and labor and can help guide you in making your birth plan as comprehensive as possible. She can also locate credible resources, which will allow you to make an informed decision. The birth plan is usually photo-copied by the couple and given to various medical staff and mom’s caregiver.

How do doulas affect labor and delivery?

Studies have shown that continuous labor support with a doula:

  • Increases breastfeeding rates
  • Fewer medical interventions
  • Increased maternal attachment
  • Greater birth spacing/delay of second pregnancy
  • More positive birth experience
  • Mothers having positive perceptions of their infants, support from others, and increased self-worth
  • Shorter length of labor
  • Lower c-section rate
  • Higher APGAR scores at 1 and 5 minutes

(These findings come from peer-reviewed medical journals and were compiled by Health Connect One, http://www.healthconnectone.org. Citations are available upon request.)

Some Helpful Articles about Doulas

8 Truths Doulas Know About Childbirth

Video about What is a Doula

Doulas Helping to Save Lives

Doulas and Health Benefits

Doulas offer Physical and Mental Support

Breathtaking Photos of Doulas at Work!