The following information is from my certifying organization, DONA International, the "oldest, largest and most respected doula association in the world."

 

The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Studies* have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

 

A Birth Doula

If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.
— John H. Kennell, MD
  • Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
  • Stays with the woman throughout the labor
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions
  • Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
  • Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level

*such as 2012, Hodnett et al. and Hofmeyr, Nikodem et al. 1991