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.

Image by Tim Bish

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.

What a Birth Doula can offer 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




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


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 depression.

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

What a Postpartum Doula can Offer You


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


Non-judgmental and confidential listening



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