So, What is a Doula?

So What is a Doula?


The word doula originates from the Greek, meaning "woman servant." Although this is an ancient meaning of the word, the modern definition is not too far off. In modern times the word doula was coined by Dana Raphael, in 1973 in her book "The Tender Gift: Breastfeeding." Raphael used the term to refer to women supporting women in the postpartum period. However, as birth doulas have become more popular in the recent decades, they have popularized the term doula as well.

DONA international, the world's largest doula certifying organization, describes a doula as this:

"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."

Above all a doula is there to provide continuous, nonjudgemental support, and not just to the mother, but to the entire birthing and parenting team. The role of a doula, whether it is in birth or postpartum, is never to assume the role of another, or detract from anyone'e experience. A doula in fact does the opposite, and hopes to enhance the experience for everyone involved. A doula is also there to support the partner, family, or any other member of the birthing and family team. Having a doula present simply ensures that birthing or postpartum person has the utmost of care, and is given the chance to have the best experience possible. This of course includes spending this intimate time with your partner or team, but for those who do not have the support of family or a partner, a doula is still a great way to get support and may be even more beneficial to you.

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What a Doula can do for You

Birth Doula

By choosing to have a birth doula attend your labor and delivery, you are making a decision that has many known benefits and virtually no known disadvantages. Dr. John Kennel, pioneer in the research of, and advocate of mother-infant bonding, said "If doulas were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it." Now that is saying something! Just a few of the benefits of having a doula are: 39% decrease in the risk of birth by cesarean, 31% decrease in risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience, shorter labors, and 15% increase in chance of having a spontaneous vaginal birth. A doula is truely for everyone, regardless of how you choose to give birth, whether you are planning to deliver vaginally, medicated. cesarean, non-medicated, in the water, at the hospital, or at home. The benefits of having a doula are far reaching, and can positively impact anyone. 

How are all of these things possible? It's simple, through continuous one-on-one support.

So, what can you expect from having a birth doula? Physical, emotional, and informational support.

Here are just a few ways that you can expect a birth doula to offer support to you.


  • Assist with birth positions

  • Offer water and nourishment

  • Gentle massage

  • Create a relaxing environment

  • Applying cold or warm compresses

  • Walking with laboring person

  • Assist to and from the bathroom

  • Assist with movement in bed after having an epidural


  • Being a continuous presence

  • Holding space

  • Non-judgmental and confidential listening

  • Affirmation

  • Reassurance

  • Positivity

  • Supporting the birthing persons decisions regarding birth

  • Never projecting personal opinions or feeling onto the birthing person

  • Calm and soothing presence

  • Assist working through fears of birth

  • Supporting connection between birthing person and partner if present


  • Provide evidence based information

  • Inform the birthing person of their rights

  • Encourage informed decision making

  • Basic childbirth education

  • Refer to other specialists and professionals for information or care if needed

Postpartum Doula

Having a postpartum doula can drastically change your postpartum experience. A postpartum doula is there to mother the mother and ensure that the mother is well taken care of so, in turn she can mother her new baby the best she can. The kind of care provided by a postpartum doula can be beneficial to any new parent, but may be especially invaluable to those who are having, or have had a cesarean section. By allowing the mother to rest, having a postpartum doula may speed postpartum healing, promote mother-infant bonding, and reduce rates of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders such as postpartum support.

The postpartum doula provides care in the first 12 weeks postpartum (also known as the fourth trimester) for the mother and family. Her role is to be Near. Nurture, Educate, Assess, and Refer


  • Gentle, light massage

  • Creating a calm environment

  • Light housework (laundry, dishes, picking up)

  • Sibling support

  • Assistance with personal care

  • Meal preparation

  • Newborn care

  • Breastfeeding support

  • Companionship

  • Non-judgmental and confidential listening

  • Affirmation


  • Infant feeding (breast or bottle)

  • Infant sleep

  • Infant behavior

  • Infant bathing

  • Soothing techniques

  • Diaper changing


  • Constantly assessing the environment in order to assist the family in whatever is needed most at the time, and being sensitive to the ever changing needs


  • When needed, provide referrals and resources, and encourage connection with the community and other professionals

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Sibling Support Doula

Hiring a sibling support doula is a great way to answer the question; what am I going to do with my other child(ren) while I am in labor? A sibling support doula is there to create a loving and safe environment for your child, while they make the transition into becoming an older brother or sister. Whether they are becoming an older sibling for the first time or the fourth time, having a baby is a big transition for everyone in the family (even pets!)

A sibling support doula can meet you and your child either in the hospital, or at home when you are in labor, and care for the child for the duration of the labor and delivery at either location. The doula will be on-call for you and ready to provide services at anytime you go into labor (including the middle of the night.)


The doula can provide answers to the child's questions about birth in an age appropriate way, care for your child physically and emotionally, as well as help the child through any fears or struggles regarding becoming an older sibling. While having a doula with your child, the birthing mother can focus on childbirth, and integrate your other child or children at the pace you want.

Here are some ways a sibling support doula may support your family.

   Support your child through their daily needs which may include:

  • Feeding          

  • Bathing          

  • Diaper changing      

  • Assistance with toilet training      

  • Meal preparation    

  • Playing          

  • Arts and crafts       

  • Bedtime routine     

  • Homework help​     

  • Clean up          

Emotional Support

  • Create a loving environment       

  • Prioritize safety       

  • Answer any questions about birth in an age appropriate way   

  • Address any fears the child may have about becoming a sibling   

  • Reassure the child about the safety of their mother