Where does the word “doula” come from?  The word doula comes from the ancient Greek word Δούλη, meaning “woman’s servant” or “handmaiden”.

What is a labor doula?   A labor doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and evidence based informational support to the mother before, during, and after childbirth.

What do doula’s do?   A doula will:

  • Provide emotional support
  • Use comfort measures: breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning  
  • Give evidence based information about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum care  
  • Offer continuous emotional and physical support to the mother Help a mother become informed about various birth choices  
  • Advocate for the mother and facilitate communication between the mother and her care provider  
  • Look after the partner as well

What things don’t doulas do?   A doula will not:

  • Act as a medical professional
  • Perform vaginal exams
  • Perform fetal heart rate monitoring
  • Give medical advice or diagnose any conditions
  • Judge you for any decisions you make during labor, pregnancy, or in your postpartum period
  • Pressure you into making a decision because it is what she prefers
  • Replace your husband or partner
  • Catch your baby. Your care provider is hired to fill that role.

Why do I need a doula if I will have my partner and a room full of labor and delivery nurses?   A doula is different than a labor and delivery nurse in that her primary responsibility is to provide you with continuous support. She will come to your home during early labor if you wish, and she will not leave your side until 1-2 hours postpartum. The labor and delivery nurses at the hospital have many patients and many responsibilities, and therefore, cannot provide continuous care to you or any one patient. Also, labor and delivery nurses work and shifts, and they will leave at the end of their shifts regardless of whether or not you are still in labor. A doula will not leave you in the middle of labor.

A doula does not replace your partner or spouse, but she offers a unique type of support that will augment the support your partner can provide. Having a doula at your birth will enable your partner to step away to eat or use the bathroom without leaving you alone. A doula also offers an extensive knowledge of birth that most partners do not have. In this way, doulas and partners can team up to provide you an even greater level of labor support.

Is there any evidence for the benefits of having a doula?   Yes! There is! A 2012 Hodnett et al. study published by Cochrane review showed that women with continuous labor support from a companion such as a doula were:

  • 28% less likely to have a cesarean section
  • 12% more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth
  • 31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin to speed up labor
  • 9% less likely to use any pain medication
  • 14% less likely to have a baby that needs NICU care
  • 34% less likely to rate their childbirth experience negatively

**Source: Evidence Based Birth