What Is A Birth Doula?

She was present when we needed her, and became almost invisible at just the right moment to give us space and enjoy the process as a couple. She was the emotional anchor that kept us present in the most transformative day of our lives. We are forever grateful"


New Father

The Greek word doula means woman caregiver.  We now use this word to describe either a birth doula or a postpartum doula.  A postpartum doula provides care to a family with a newborn baby and joins the family after birth.  A birth doula is a trained labor companion that provides a woman and her partner (if she has a partner) continuous emotional support, physical comfort and help in receiving information and resources during the prenatal period, during the birth and just after childbirth.

A birth doula understands that birth is one of the most transformative times in one’s life, a time that a mother will remember for the rest of her life and can affect her greatly.  A birth doula trusts a woman’s instincts to know what is best for her and her very unique and individual pregnancy and childbirth.  A birth doula plays a vital role during the mother’s prenatal months offering continuous emotional support and any resources a mother needs to plan for her dream birth.  A birth doula understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor.  She will stay by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor and provides continuous emotional support, physical comfort measures and assistance to the birthing mother in getting information she needs to make the best decisions for her and her birth.  A birth doula can help facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and the clinical care providers.   A birth doula perceives her role as one who nurtures and protects the woman’s memory of her birth experience.

The best evidence…

The best evidence about the benefits of continuous support during labor from a person that was neither a member of the hospital staff nor a person in the woman’s social network and provided one-to-one supportive care (such as a birth doula) resulted in the following:

  • 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
  • 28% decrease in the risk of C-section
  • 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
  • 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

These results are from the most recent and largest systematic review of continuous labor support of over 15,000 women who participated in 21 randomized controlled trials.  (Hodnett and colleagues 2011)