A doula’s main role is to encourage self-confidence in women who are giving birth.
A doula does this by supporting a woman and her family with information and practical and emotional care during pregnancy and birth. Doulas sometimes continue caring for women and their babies in the first weeks after the birth.
A doula can work in any setting where you have your baby, from homebirths to planned caesareans. But doulas aren’t trained in clinical care. This means they don’t organise or interpret tests and scans, diagnose medical conditions or give medical advice. So you’ll still need your obstetrician, if you have one, and/or a midwife at the birth, including homebirth. It’s a good idea to let your obstetrician or midwife know if you have a doula involved in your care.
What a doula does
During pregnancy, a doula might:
- give you information about pregnancy and birth
- support you as you plan for birth
- talk about previous births and other life experiences that might affect your birth experience
- help you identify your post-birth needs.
During labour and birth, a doula might:
- suggest positions, movements and changes that help ease pain during labour
- guide your breathing and help you relax
- give you massage, hot packs, aromatherapy and other things to comfort you
- create the birthing environment you want
- help remove distractions
- reassure and encourage you, and talk you through emotions during labour
- help you communicate your birth plan to the midwives and doctors caring for you.
After the birth, a doula might:
- support you emotionally and help you build your confidence with your new baby
- give you sleep and settling suggestions
- help you learn about breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
You can talk with the doula about exactly how you’d like her to be involved in your pregnancy, birth and postnatal care. Many doulas offer various services or you can work with your doula to create a service that suits your individual needs. Some women hire a doula just for after the birth.
Many women say that their birth experiences were more positive when they had a doula. Women say they needed less pain relief and fewer birth interventions.
Choosing a doula
You arrange and pay for a doula yourself, if you want to have one.
Before choosing a doula, it’s a good idea to find out about a doula’s experience and training. There are no specific qualifications for working as a doula, but many doulas do training in professional birth support, and some are qualified in other therapies like massage, yoga or acupuncture.
Look for a doula with a working with children check. It’s also a good idea to find out whether the doula uses a code of conduct or ethics. Doulas usually offer an obligation-free interview so you can find out whether the doula will be someone you feel comfortable with.
To choose a doula, visit: