What is a doula ?

 

A birth doula is a companion who supports a birthing person during labour and birth.

The word comes from the greek, meaning “woman-servant”.

Doulas usually meet with the birthing person and their partner throughout pregnancy, helping them to making informed choices about their care in pregnancy and birth, and providing physical, emotional and informational support during the birth. They provide constant, one-on-one, personalised care. They work with the concept of “primacy of care”, meaning that the wishes of the birthing person come above everything else.

What kind of support can I expect

from a doula ? 

 

Physical support. Aspects of physical support provided by a doula may include:

  • Soothing with touch (massage, use of counter pressure)

  • Helping to create and maintain a calm environment (dimming lights, closing curtains, ensuring peace and quiet, etc.)

  • Assisting with water as pain relief

  • Applying warmth or cold

  • Assisting the birthing person in moving, changing positions

  • Giving food and drink

 

Emotional support helps the birthing person feel cared for and feel a sense of pride and empowerment after birth. One of the doula’s primary goals is to care for the mother’s emotional health and enhance her ability to have positive birth memories. Doulas may provide the following types of emotional support :

  • Continuous presence

  • Reassurance

  • Encouragement and praise

  • Showing a caring attitude

  • Mirroring—calmly describing what the birthing person is experiencing and echoing back the same feelings and intensity

  • Accepting what the birthing person wants

  • Helping the birthing person and partner work through fears and self-doubt

  • Debriefing after the birth—listening to the parent with empathy

 

Informational support helps keep the birthing person and their partner informed about what’s going on with the course of labor, as well as provides them with access to evidence-based information about birth options. Aspects of informational support include:

  • Helping the birthing person and their partner understand the stages of labour

  • Suggesting techniques in labour, such as breathing, relaxation techniques, movement, and positioning

  • Helping them find evidence-based information about their opinions in pregnancy and birth

  • Helping the partner understand what's happening during their loved one's labour

 

Doulas do many things, but they are things they do not do. Doulas are not medical professionals, and the following tasks are not performed by doulas:

  • They do not perform clinical tasks such as vaginal exams or fetal heart monitoring

  • They do not give medical advice or diagnose conditions

  • They do not make decisions for the client (medical or otherwise)

  • They do not pressure the birthing person into certain choices

  • They do not take over the role of the partner