What is a Doula?

What is a Doula?
Doula is a Greek word that means “woman’s servant.” A doula is a woman who is willing to serve others through many different kinds of work, most commonly during labor, birth, and afterwards.

Labor Support Doula
A labor support doula gives a woman and her family continuous support through labor and birth. This is done with physical support, a nurturing environment, comfort measures, and assurance that a family’s specific wishes and desires for the labor and birth are followed. Doulas also provide emotional support and reassurance to the mother and other family members. Depending on the degree of experience and education your doula has, she may be able to help clarify certain procedures and facilitate communication between you and your care provider. Doulas do not make medical decisions.

“Scotty and I did our best to prepare ourselves for the birthing experience. I was fairly well read and we studied the Bradley Method of Husband Coached Childbirth. I knew I wanted Scotty to take an active role and therefore was not sure how a doula would fit into the process, I just knew I wanted her there. It turned out she was a great resource of information both prior to the birth and postpartum, but it was during the last hours of a long labor that she became irreplaceable. It’s hard to explain the kind of support she offered, it was something none of my friends or family were able to give. I never could have done the last few hours of natural labor without her help.”
- Krista, Mother of Annabelle
Why Hire a Doula?
Traditionally, a new mother had her family and women friends nearby to attend her during labor and help with household chores and other children after the birth. Women friends would provide emotional and physical support to aid in a mother’s recovery. Today many of us live away from helpful family members. Sometimes family members and friends are too busy in their day-to-day lives to help with the important continuous support that is needed during birth and for a healthy recovery.

“We hired our doula on very short notice (I had already begun labor) and we felt comfortable with her right away. Kim’s wealth of experience and knowledge was indispensable to us during a complicated birth process. She helped us to understand our choices (no small feat at the hospital!) and advocated for us powerfully to get our wishes carried out. Kim is warm, sensitive, intuitive, wise, educated, experienced, creative and strong, just to mention a few characteristics.”


Many mothers feel pressure to heal quickly and resume “life before baby”. This pressure is often due to shortened maternity leave, lack of paternity leave, pressure from family members for their needs to continue to be met, and the fast-paced society we live in.
A doula takes on the role of a nurturing, supportive woman friend. She is there to provide reassurance andguidance during labor and birth. She is there to facilitate bonding of the new family, assist with initiating breastfeeding, and help process the birth experience.

“My doula’s constant love and support helped me trust my body allowing me to birth my daughter gently and with confidence.” 
- Jen, Mother of Isabella





Proven Benefits of Doula Care

Women who had doulas were:

  • More likely to give birth spontaneously (without vacuum, forceps or by cesarean)
  • More likely to have shorter labors
  • More likely to give birth without pain medication
  • Less likely to report negative feelings about their childbirth experience

6 weeks after birth, mothers with doulas were:

  • More likely to be breastfeeding
  • Had more confidence with baby
  • More satisfied with partner
  • Less anxious and depressed

 “Continuous support for women during childbirth.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011 as well as previous study from 2003, available on childbirthconnection.org

For more about the research, see DONA International’s Position Paper by clicking below.

  1. DONA Position Paper
  2. DONA: “What is a Doula?”
  3. Wikipedia

This mom is in the position known as the “supported lap squat.” I have frequently suggested this position to help bring the baby down and under the pelvic arch. The position always works as mom can’t resist. This was the first time I had suggested the position with an epidural. Because the midwife was very open minded and the epidural was “light,” we were able to try it. When I took this picture, the midwife was saying, “I feel the head coming down.” The success of this position contributed significantly to this mom having a vaginal birth after three days of labor.






Doula’s Make a Difference! Visit Doulas of North America to learn more.


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