What is a Labour or Birth Doula?

A Labour or Birth Doula is a woman trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman during labor, birth and the immediate postpartum period. Postpartum Doulas care for new families in the first weeks after birth providing household help, advice with newborn care and feeding, and emotional support.


The Benefits of Doula Support

In Print: Information on Doula Support

Online Articles on Doula Support

"When labour started I felt very well prepared. I had 'no surprises' and felt I was in control. Connie made it easy for me to make the decisions required. I was also very glad that she was there to take the burden off my husband."                                                     Cathy Gladwin

In Print: Information on Doula Support

Given the clear benefits and no known risks associated with intrapartum support, every effort should be made to ensure that all laboring women receive support, not only from those close to them but also from specially trained caregivers. This support should include continuous presence, the provision of hands-on comfort, and encouragement. Hodnett, E. D. "Support from caregivers during childbirth." (Cochrane Review) in Cochrane Library, Issue 2. Oxford Update Software, 1998. Updated Quarterly.

A doula provides support consisting of praise, reassurance, measures to improve the comfort of the mother, physical contact such as rubbing the mother's back and holding her hands, explanation of what is going on during labor and delivery and a constant friendly presence. Such tasks can also be fulfilled by a nurse or midwife, but they often need to perform technical/medical procedures than can distract their attention from the mother. Care in Normal Birth: a Practical Guide. Report of a Technical Working Group. World Health Organization, 1996.

Facing unprecedented pressures to reduce expenses, many hospitals are targeting the largest single budget item--labor costs?(An) unintended consequence of nursing cutbacks may be an increased cesarean rate; the inability of pared down nursing staff to provide continuous coverage to laboring mothers (has been) shown to increase the chance of cesarean?Doulas clearly improve clinical and service quality; they provide an absolutely safe way to reduce cesareans and other invasive birthing interventions. Coming to Term: Innovations in Safely Reducing Cesarean Rates. Medical Leadership Council, Washington DC. 1996.

Professionals have paid much attention to innovative technology and the many new options for monitoring and managing labor. While the technology is important, it can become so prominent that clinicians ignore both the natural aspects of labor and the nontechnical needs of women in labor. . Changes that support the patient in labor and reinforce the natural, physiologic process ?includes providing one-to-one psychological support for patients using nursing staff or doulas. Reducing Cesarean Section Rates while Maintaining Maternal and Infant Outcomes. Bruce L. Flamm et al. Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Boston, 1997.

The continuous availability of a caregiver to provide psychological support and comfort should be a key component of all intrapartum care programs, which should be designed for the effective prevention, and treatment of dystocia (non-progressive labor). Guidelines on Dystocia. Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, 1995.

It's natural for people to want support and companionship during any stressful or challenging experience. [Often women] were less concerned about whether having doulas shortened labors, and more interested in the added confidence and comfort they felt because of the support they received. Pregnancy and Birth: The Best Evidence. Joyce Barrett and Teresa Ptiman. 1999.

Online Articles on Doula Support

bulletDoulas Ease Patient Labor - March 1998
bulletWomen Find Doulas Helpful During Labor - March 1, 1999
bulletStudy Shows Positive Impact - Inquirer, June 23, 1999
bulletRisk-Free Option For Pain Relief During Childbirth - April 13, 2000
bulletDoulas Can Improve the Health of Both Mother and Newborn - 2000
bulletDoulas - Who Are They and How Might They Affect Obstetrical Anesthesia Practices? - ASA, October 2000
bulletOne Labor-Intensive Job - Time, March 12, 2001
bulletYou Can Never Be Too Relaxed About Birth - National Post, May 1, 2001
bulletDoulas Play an Important Role in Childbirth - Reno Gazette-Journal, October 9, 2001


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