A trained professional who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth.


A doula is a trained companion who is not a healthcare professional and who supports another individual through a significant health-related experience, such as childbirth, miscarriage, induced abortion or stillbirth, or non-reproductive experiences such as dying. A doula may also provide support to the partner or family of the person giving birth or experiencing the health-related event. Unlike a midwife, a doula does not have the training to assist in medical aspects of childbirth but focuses on the emotional and physical comfort of the mother.

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The term 'doula' originates from ancient Greece, meaning 'a woman who serves'. However, the modern doula role emerged in the US during the 1960s as a response to the over-medicalization of childbirth. In 1973, the first doula organization, Doulas of North America (now DONA International), was founded. The doula profession gained momentum in the 1980s and 1990s, with more organizations and training programs being established worldwide. Today, doulas play a vital role in providing non-medical support to mothers during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period.


  1. Emotional Support Doulas provide continuous emotional support, encouragement, and reassurance throughout the childbirth process, helping to reduce anxiety and stress.
  2. Physical Comfort Doulas are trained in various techniques to help manage pain and discomfort during labor, such as massage, positioning, and breathing techniques.
  3. Informational Support Doulas can provide evidence-based information to help mothers make informed decisions about their birth preferences and navigate the healthcare system.
  4. Improved Birth Outcomes Studies have shown that the presence of a doula can lead to shorter labors, fewer medical interventions, and higher rates of successful breastfeeding.
  5. Partner Support Doulas can also provide support and guidance to the mother's partner, helping them to be more involved and confident in their role during childbirth.
  6. Postpartum Support Many doulas offer postpartum services, providing support with breastfeeding, newborn care, and emotional adjustment to parenthood.

How It Works

Doulas provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth. They offer guidance and techniques to help the mother cope with labor, such as breathing, relaxation, and positioning. Doulas also facilitate communication between the mother and healthcare providers, ensuring the mother's needs and preferences are understood. They create a supportive environment, offering reassurance and encouragement throughout the birthing process. Additionally, doulas may provide postpartum support, assisting with breastfeeding, newborn care, and the emotional well-being of the mother.


While doulas offer valuable support, they do not replace medical professionals. Doulas do not perform clinical tasks or make medical decisions. It's essential to understand their role and communicate openly with both the doula and healthcare providers. Some hospitals may have restrictions on doula involvement, so it's crucial to check policies beforehand. Compatibility between the mother and doula is key, so it's important to interview potential doulas and find someone who aligns with the mother's needs, preferences, and personality. Lastly, while doulas can provide emotional support, they are not trained mental health professionals.

How Much It Costs

The cost of hiring a doula can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and the scope of services provided. On average, doula services can range from $500 to $2,500. Some doulas offer packages that include prenatal visits, continuous support during labor and delivery, and postpartum follow-up. Others may charge hourly rates, typically between $25 and $50 per hour. It's important to discuss fees and payment structures upfront with potential doulas to find an arrangement that works for both parties.

Virtual & Online Options

Virtual doula services have gained popularity, offering support through video calls, phone consultations, and online resources. These services provide flexibility and accessibility, especially for those in remote areas or with limited local options. Virtual doulas can offer prenatal education, emotional support, and guidance throughout the birthing process. However, in-person doula support offers the benefit of physical presence and hands-on assistance during labor. Local doulas can provide comfort measures, such as massage and positioning, and can more easily navigate the hospital environment. Ultimately, the choice between virtual and local doula services depends on individual needs, preferences, and circumstances.


While there is no universal certification required to practice as a doula, many organizations offer training and certification programs. The most widely recognized certifications include DONA International (Doulas of North America), CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association), and ICEA (International Childbirth Education Association). These organizations provide comprehensive training in various aspects of doula support, such as childbirth education, labor support techniques, and postpartum care. Certification typically involves completing coursework, attending workshops, and demonstrating knowledge through exams or evaluations. Some doulas may also have additional certifications in related areas, such as lactation support or prenatal yoga.

Complementary Practices

Complementary practices that pair well with doula services include prenatal yoga, birthing classes, breastfeeding support groups, postpartum massage, and pelvic floor physical therapy. These practices can help prepare the mother physically and emotionally for birth and the postpartum period, while also providing additional support and resources.

Practitioner Types

Doulas are trained professionals who provide physical, emotional, and informational support to expecting mothers before, during, and after childbirth. There are different types of doulas, including birth doulas, postpartum doulas, and antepartum doulas. Birth doulas assist during labor and delivery, while postpartum doulas provide support in the weeks following birth. Antepartum doulas specialize in supporting high-risk pregnancies.

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  • Q: What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?

    • A: While both doulas and midwives provide support during pregnancy and childbirth, midwives are medical professionals who deliver babies and provide medical care. Doulas, on the other hand, offer non-medical emotional, physical, and informational support to the mother and her family.
  • Q: How can a doula help during labor and delivery?

    • A: During labor and delivery, a doula can provide continuous support, comfort measures (such as massage and breathing techniques), and advocacy for the mother's wishes. They can also help communicate with medical staff and offer guidance on pain management options.
  • Q: When should I hire a doula?

    • A: It's best to hire a doula early in your pregnancy, typically around the second trimester. This allows time to build a relationship with your doula, discuss your birth preferences, and ensure their availability for your estimated due date.
  • Q: Are doula services covered by insurance?

    • A: Coverage for doula services varies depending on the insurance provider and plan. Some insurance companies may cover a portion of the cost, while others may not offer coverage at all. It's best to check with your insurance provider to determine your specific coverage.
  • Q: What are the benefits of having a postpartum doula?

    • A: Postpartum doulas provide invaluable support to new mothers and their families in the weeks following birth. They can assist with breastfeeding, baby care, light household tasks, and emotional support during the challenging transition to parenthood. Postpartum doulas can also help identify signs of postpartum mood disorders and provide resources for additional support if needed.


Doulas play a crucial role in providing emotional, physical, and informational support to expecting mothers throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. By working alongside medical professionals and complementary practitioners, doulas help create a comprehensive support system that empowers women to have positive and informed birth experiences. Whether you choose a birth doula, postpartum doula, or antepartum doula, their guidance and advocacy can contribute to improved maternal and infant health outcomes, as well as increased confidence and satisfaction for new parents navigating the transformative journey of childbirth and early parenthood.