What is a Doula?

Navigating pregnancy, birth and early parenthood can be a daunting and overwhelming time. A doula provides continuous nurturing, non-judgemental support during this time in what ever way you most need it. A doula’s agenda is solely aligned with yours.

Doulas are usually highly skilled in empathetic care, have a wealth of knowledge about birth and parenthood and are plugged into a vast network of birth workers and local professionals. They are not medically trained and do not offer any clinical skills.

There are two main kinds of doulas, birth doula and postnatal doula and the kind of support they provide is fundamentally two fold, practical and emotional.

Birth doula

A birth doula will support you throughout your pregnancy, meeting you and your partner for antenatal sessions during which time they will help you to prepare and plan for your birth and parenthood. At typically around 38 weeks your doula will then go ‘on call’ for you and be prepared to be by your side when you go into labour. As you labour and birth, your doula will remain with you regardless of whether you are at home or in a hospital setting. They will stay with you until after your baby is born and you are happy and settled. As you settle into your new life with your baby, your doula will visit you postnatally to help with infant feeding, discuss your birth experience and anything else with which you would like support.

Practical support
Doulas do not advise, but they will support you to find balanced information so that you may make informed decisions about your maternity care. The aim is always to support the client in maintaining their sense of control and their confidence in their choices.

  • Signposting to evidence-based information
  • Helping partner to understand what’s going on
  • Massage
  • Creating a calm environment
  • Promoting physical comfort
  • Suggesting comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation techniques, movement, positioning

Emotional support
A doula’s primary goal is to care for a mother’s emotional health. How they do this will depend greatly on the individual needs of the client and is one of the reasons why birth doulas spend considerable time getting to know their clients.

  • Encouragement, reassurance
  • Continuous presence
  • Non-judgemental support
  • Helping the woman and her partner to work through fears and concerns
  • Empathetic listening

Postnatal doula

A postnatal doula can start working with a family any time from the new baby’s first day to the first few months. They can spend days, weeks or years with one family providing a unique kind of nurturing support.

It is harder to define the kind of support that a postnatal doula provides a family due to the fact that every family and their needs is entirely different.

Practical support (can include the following)

  • Signposting to evidence-based information
  • Help around the house
  • Tend to the baby whilst the mother rests
  • Help with older siblings
  • Cook
  • Do the school run
  • Provide overnight care for the baby so that parents can sleep

Emotional support
A postnatal doula will support you to be the parent you wish to be.

  • Encouragement, reassurance
  • A space to chat things through
  • Continuous presence
  • Non-judgemental support
  • Helping the woman and her partner to work through fears and concerns
  • Empathetic listening

Doulas mother the mother.


“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers – strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”

– Barbara Katz Rothman