A Birth Doula is a companion who supports expectant parents in pregnancy, during labour and birth, and postnatally.

Importantly, the doula’s role and agenda are tied solely to the birthing person’s agenda. In other words, a doula’s primary responsibility is to the birthing person—not to a hospital administrator, nurse, midwife, or doctor.  A Birth Doula will support the parent's birth choices and provide a judgement free, nuturing presence.

HOW DO THEY DO THIS?

The support a Birth Doula provides is tailored to the needs of the parents as and when they arise, but roughly fall into three categories; practical, emotional and informational.

Practical support helps the birthing person maintain a sense of control, comfort, and confidence. Aspects of physical support provided by a Birth Doula may include:

  • Soothing with touch through the use of massage, counter pressure, or a rebozo
  • Helping to create a calm environment
  • Assisting with water therapy
  • Applying warmth or cold
  • Assisting the birthing person with personal care such as dressing, undressing, getting in or out of a shower, getting to the toilet, getting in and out of a car
  • Giving ice chips, food, and drinks
  • Setting up and taking down birth pools
  • Making tea and coffee
  • Making phone calls
  • Tidying up
  • Putting washing on

Emotional support helps the birthing person feel heard and respected. One of the doula’s primary goals is to care for the mother’s emotional health and enhance her ability to have positive birth memories. Doulas may provide the following types of emotional support to the birthing person and their partner:

  • Continuous presence
  • Reassurance
  • Encouragement
  • Praise
  • Holding your birth space
  • Supporting the birthing person emotionally through unexpected changes in their birth plan
  • Keeping company
  • Showing a caring attitude
  • Respect and support for their specific birthing choices
  • Helping the birthing person and partner work through fears and self-doubt
  • Postnatal follow-up

Informational support helps parents to make informed choices about their birth experience by providing evidence-based information. Aspects may include:

  • Antenatal sessions to plan and prepare for the birth (quantity may vary between doulas)
  • Guiding the birthing person and their partner through labour
  • Suggesting techniques in labour, such as breathing, relaxation techniques, movement, and positioning
  • Helping explain medical procedures before or as they occur
  • Helping the partner understand what’s going on with their loved one’s labour

Advocacy can take many forms—most of which do not include speaking on behalf of the client. Some examples of advocacy that doulas have described include:

  • Encouraging the birthing person or their partner to ask questions and verbalize their preferences
  • Asking the birthing person what they want
  • Supporting the birthing person’s decision
  • Amplifying the mother’s voice if she is being dismissed, ignored, or not heard
  • Creating space and time for the birthing family so that they can ask questions, gather evidence-based information, and make decisions without feeling pressured
  • Facilitating communication between the parents and care providers
  • Teaching the birthing person and partner positive communication techniques
  • Supporting parents to be aware of their rights in childbirth

If you would like to connect with one of our birth doulas and discuss their services, please contact them individually via email or on their personal website through our doula directory.