What is a Doula?

While studying to become a doula. People would get a puzzled look on their face when I told them what I was completing my certification for.  I would then have to explain to them the role of the doula and they would nod and say “ohhhh…like a midwife!!” To which I would then explain, again, the scope of practice for a doula.

I highly recommend doulas for expecting parents, especially if it’s a first child.  They not only support the labouring mom but are encouraging and helpful for the birth partner.  They have extensive knowledge, not only about labour and birth, but are usually familiar with your local hospital policies and procedures.

The word ‘doula’ is a Greek word meaning ‘woman’s servant’ or a ‘woman who serves’.  Doulas are certified through individual organizations.  Some of the best are DONA, BirthWorks,   CAPPA and C.A.R.E. Some certifications are intense and ensure the certifying doula has the knowledge and experience to confidently and successfully be an asset to expecting parents. There is a fee for the doulas service.  This fee varies from doula to doula, some doulas base their fee on the parent’s income, and some have a set fee.  

Its best to start searching and interviewing doulas in your second trimester as it may take some time to find one you are comfortable with and want at your birth.  It’s important to feel comfortable and secure with whomever you choose.  Once you have picked your doula you will meet with her to get to know each other better, to go over your birth plan and express fears or concerns.  In labour, your doula will be with you once you feel you need her support and will stay with you up until a few hours after birth, once the your family is comfortable and resting.  She will then come and visit a few days post-partum. Together you can retell your birth story and answer any questions you have about the birth.

Doulas are not medical professionals.  They are a labour councillor, or labour coach.  They do not provide any medical procedures or tests.  They do not give medical advice and are not able to prescribe medicine.   They are not allowed to speak on your behalf to the medical attendants. 

They are, however, very knowledgeable about the medical procedures and tests that may take place during your pregnancy and labour and will answer any questions you have about them.  Which is nice, especially if you are delivering in a hospital, as minimal information is usually passed on and nurses and doctors may be working with numerous patients.  Doulas help the mom to relax by talking calmly, massaging, rocking, walking, and breathing. They help make suggestions while keeping in mind the birth plan in terms of pain management, and position changes.  They are also encouraging, not only for mom, but for her birth partner too.

It is proven over again that doula care significantly lowers risk of having a caesarean, epidural, forceps, episiotomy, and have significantly shorter labours. They also show to lower the risk of mood disorders after birth and families report an easier transition to the new family.

Those that have had a doula for their birth usually are extremely happy that they had one and couldn’t imagine birthing without one.  I know personally, I really wish I would have had one for both of my births.  The first one would have been nice being so young.  I was going to have my mom and sister with me, but they just sat there, eating and drinking their coffee, waiting for the show.  I actually had to ask the midwife to ask them to leave as they were actually making me very uncomfortable.  My second birth would have been nice because my labour was so fast and intense, I gave birth after a little over an hour after arriving at the hospital. My midwife was so busy with the paperwork and the assistant didn’t get there until I was pushing. My partner was very unsure and I had to labour without much support.

So look into it if you are expecting, perhaps meet with a few doulas in your area and make a decision that suits you.  


Information Sources

“Having a Doula:  Is a Doula for Me?” , (2013, January), (American Pregnancy Association), Available: http//www.americalpregnancy.org (Accessed: 2013, April, 18).

 Kennell, John, H., Klaus, Marshall, H., Phyllis, H., (2002), The Doula Book: How A Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have A Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth, 2nd edition, Da Capo Press, Boston, MA.

 “What is a Doula?”, (DONA International), Available: http//www.dona.org/mothers (Accessed: 2013, April, 18).