What Is A Doula?

DONA International states a doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” Those that hire a doula report a shorter, more satisfying birth experience. Having a doula present is one of the best steps a mother can take to get the support she needs to make informed choices, experience emotional wellbeing throughout labor, and feel prepared for all of the changes to come during and after pregnancy. Although a doula is non-medical in nature, she is well versed in the physiology of birth and the physical and emotional needs of a woman in labor. When labor starts, a doula is a continuous support person, staying with the expectant mother throughout labor; however, a doula provides this support with an objective viewpoint, remaining committed to the mother’s preferences without personal bias. A doula encourages the mother throughout the challenges of labor and reminds her with positive and loving care that she is capable of giving birth to this child, even when the mother may have stopped believing this herself.  In short, a doula mothers the mother as well as supports her partner/family before, during and after birth.

What “ISN’T” a doula?

A doula will not perform any clinical tasks (vaginal exams, fetal heart monitoring, blood pressure checks, etc.) or give medical advice. A doula also remains neutral and supports the mother’s preferences, not pressuring her to make certain choices. The doula will not speak to the medical staff on her behalf, but will encourage the mother to be her own advocate.

Why do I need a doula if my partner will be there with me – won’t he/she feel left out?

A common misconception is that a doula replaces the partner’s support role during labor and childbirth and takes over, which is entirely untrue. A doula is present to provide support to both the mother and her partner, by giving the partner suggestions of how to physically and emotionally provide comfort to the mother as well as answer questions and give the partner the opportunity to take breaks and maintain composure and confidence.  A partner should feel as though they are in partnership with the doula in supporting the mother, never in competition.

I’m not sure I’ll end up having an unmedicated birth – aren’t doulas just for those?

Another misconception is that a doula is only required when a woman has decided she wants an unmedicated birth; in fact doulas can be just as supportive to clients who plan to have medicated or cesarean births (or start out with the goal of unmedicated birth but don’t end up that way). The key takeaway is that a doula is on hand to provide emotional and physical support as well as impart information to her client, services that are beneficial to a family regardless of the type of birth the client has planned or ends up having. Regardless of what kind of birth it is, the support a doula provides is always beneficial.

For more information regarding the role of a doula, please click here: