You might have seen the word 'doula' pop up in pregnancy magazines or on parenting websites and wondered what it is they actually do or who they are. Well, a doula is essentially a birth assistant – a woman who helps to support another woman during childbirth. The word itself comes from the ancient Greek for servant or hand maiden.
At a glance
- A doula is a birth assistant, but not a midwife
- They will help you through pregnancy and birth
- Some also offer women support after birth as they adjust to life as a new mum
It's important to remember that doulas are not midwives, and they do not deliver your baby or take on any medical role in your pregnancy. However, for many women (and their families), they play a very important part in the birth process.
What they do
A doula will offer a tailored service to their clients, and work with them to provide the support they need as individuals, so a first time mum's requirements will probably be different to a mum who already has a family and who has previously been through pregnancy and birth.
If you choose to hire a doula, you can expect them to visit you before the birth and talk through the kind of delivery you are hoping for – be that at home or in hospital. The doula will also help you write up your birth plan and give you suggestions as to how to convey what you want on paper.
During your baby's birth, your doula will give you reassurance and support, suggesting positions for you to labour in, helping you to move around and keep active, and encouraging you to adapt your breathing to work through contractions. They might also offer hands-on support through touch and massage.
Doulas also assist dads (or whoever your birth partner is) during your baby's delivery, suggesting ways in which they can help the mum-to-be relax and stay focussed throughout the birth.
Some doulas work with women after their baby is born, too, supporting them as they adjust to life as a new mum.
There are a couple of organisations in the UK who can give you more advice on hiring a doula, and explaining in greater detail what they do. Visit Doula UK or British Doulas for more information.