What is a Doula?
Doula (pronounced doo-lah) is a Greek word meaning “women’s servant.” (While not all birth givers identify as female or women, I feel the origins of the word are still useful). A labor or birth doula is a formally or informally trained support individual who provides a range of support to those who are pregnant, birthing, and postpartum and focuses on them with continuous one-on-one attention during labor.
Doulas have been around in one form or another since the dawn of humankind (even some non-human mammal species have been observed laboring with “birth attendants”!). This article adeptly details the history of birth attendant work.
Some birth/labor doulas may choose to refer to themselves as a labor companion, labor support specialist, birth professional, birth/labor assistants, birth coach, birth consultant, or birth keeper.
Why a Doula is Important
A doula can be a vital asset to any birth!
“In a 2012 survey that took place in the U.S., 6% of birthing people said they used a doula during childbirth (Declerq et al., 2013), up from 3% in a 2006 national survey (Declerq et al., 2007). Of those people who did not have a doula but understood what they were, 27% would have liked to have a doula.” – Evidence Based Birth
Partner’s Role in Birth
“In one landmark study that evaluated the effects of doulas and fathers working together, researchers found that combining a supportive partner and a doula significantly lowered the mother’s risk of Cesarean compared to just having a supportive partner alone. In 2008, McGrath and Kennell randomly assigned 420 first-time mothers to have routine care (including a supportive partner) or care that also included a professional doula whom they met for the first time during labor. […]”
“The results showed a substantial improvement in outcomes for women who had both a birth partner and a doula, compared to having a birth partner alone. The Cesarean rate for these first-time mothers was 25% in the group with a partner only, and 13.4% in the group with a partner and doula.” – Evidence Based Birth
From Birth Boot Camp:
- 4 Reasons Dad Needs a Doula
- Benefits of a Doula
- Doulas For Cesarean Birth
- Doulas For Epidural Birth
- What is a Doula?
- Why Hire a Doula
- “A grounded theory study of effective labor support by birth doulas.” In Human Development and Family Studies, Vol. Doctorate University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, pp. 452. Gilliland, A. L. (2010a).
- “A randomized controlled trial of continuous labor support for middle-class couples: effect on cesarean delivery rates.” McGrath and Kennell. Birth. 2008 Jun;35(2):92-7.
- “Continuous emotional support during labor in a US hospital.” Kennell, Klaus et al. JAMA. 1991 May 1;265(17):2197-201.
- “Continuous support for women during childbirth.” Bohren, Hofmeyer et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jul 6;7:CD003766.
- “Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes.” Kenneth J. Gruber et al. J Perinat Educ. 2013 Winter; 22(1): 49–58.
- “Listening to mothers III pregnancy and birth: Report of the third national U.S. survey of women’s childbearing experiences.” New York: Childbirth Connection. Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., et al. (2013).