What Exactly is a Doula?

Doula (pronounced ‘doo-la’) is a Greek word and describes an ancient tradition.

A modern day Doula offers emotional and physical support to a woman and her partner before, during and after childbirth.

A Doula’s role is  ‘mothering the mother’.

She enables a woman and her partner to have the most satisfying birth and post birth experience possible, from pregnancy and into motherhood. This type of support allows the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience too.

Doulas have been actively supporting women in labour for a very long time, well before it was the formalised role that it is today. As a result of positive word of mouth (and the need for increased support), doulas are fast growing in popularity.

What Is A Doula?

Doulas are trained and experienced in childbirth and childcare are usually mothers themselves. A doula does not support the mother in a medical role. That is the job of the midwife or doctor.

What Does A Doula Do?

A doula may provide some or all of the following services, dependent on her training and skills. Often doulas are also qualified in other therapies too.

There are two types of doulas, birth doulas and postnatal doulas. The major difference is that the role of the post-natal doula is to nurture the mother after childbirth. This may include:

  • Breastfeeding support
  • Settling/sleep help with baby
  • Massage
  • Infant massage techniques
  • Bonding support
  • Baby wearing assistance
  • Birth debriefing/counselling
  • light home duties
  • Driving/running errands
  • Overnight doulas stay with you and help overnight
  • Emotional and physical support for the mother

Needless to say, studies have shown that postnatal doulas make a huge impact on the wellbeing of mothers.

What Are The Proven Benefits?

A recent review of many studies from around the world have concluded that a doula’s support is more effective than hospital staff, friends or family. You can read the review here.

Studies (and reviews of the studies) consistently demonstrate very impressive benefits for the mother, father and baby, including:

  • Increased rates of breastfeeding at 6 weeks post-partum
  • Higher self-esteem, less anxiety and less depression at 6 weeks post-partum

The studies also clearly show the positive benefits of doula support occur regardless of a woman’s economic status or whether or not they were privately insured.

What Training Do Doulas Receive?

In Canada, there are several ways a doula can train, through courses conducted by very experienced Doulas such as those provide by DONA International– some of which are also midwives, doctors and educators.

As part of a doula’s training, she may be required to read certain materials, support several mothers of newborn babies, write assignments/reports, attend breastfeeding classes and other requirements.

Choosing the perfect Doula

While all Doula’s and indeed all mothers are wonderful people not all Doula’s may the right one for you. We recommend you sit down and chat with your chosen Doula prior to making a commitment.

It’s important for your partner to be present when you meet any potential doulas. You both need to feel assured and comfortable around her if you’re going to share such a special, vulnerable moment with her.