What Is a Doula?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on June 08, 2023
2 min read

A doula is a person who provides emotional and physical support to you during your pregnancy and childbirth. Doulas are not medical professionals. They don't deliver babies or provide medical care. A certified doula has taken a training program and passed an exam in how to help pregnant women and their families during this exciting but challenging experience.

Doulas can perform different roles, depending on your needs.

  • Labor or birth doulas provide continuous care during labor.
  • Antepartum doulas support women who are put on bed rest to prevent preterm labor. They help with household tasks and childcare.
  • Postpartum doulas support the new mom during the first few weeks after birth. They help with care and feeding of the baby and household tasks.

Before childbirth, a birth doula will typically:

  • Meet with you during your second or third trimester to get acquainted
  • Teach you relaxation and breathing skills
  • Answer your questions about the birthing process
  • Help you understand labor and delivery procedures and possible complications
  • Help you develop a birth plan

During labor, the doula will:

  • Stay with you constantly to provide comfort and support
  • Use massage and touch to help you relax and rest
  • Help you get into comfortable positions
  • Help you get adequate nutrition and fluids
  • Help communicate your preferences to the medical staff
  • Involve and reassure the dad-to-be

After delivery, a doula can:

  • Provide support and encouragement to both you and dad after bringing your baby home
  • Teach both of you how to care for your new baby
  • Assist with breastfeeding education
  • Support dad and other siblings and teach them how to help you
  • Make sure you get plenty of rest, eat regularly, stay hydrated, and are comfortable

As needed during your labor and delivery, they will help you communicate with the medical team. A doula doesn't replace nursing or other medical staff. They don't examine you, take measurements, or do other clinical tasks.

A doula can help you and the dad-to-be have a positive and safe birth experience:

  • During labor, a doula can take over coaching now and then to give the dad a break.
  • When desired, a doula can completely free the dad-to-be from coaching tasks -- and from having to remember the instructions from your childbirth classes. They can enjoy the process and focus on supporting you emotionally.
  • Studies show that women who use a doula have shorter labors, are less likely to need a C-section, request less pain medication, and have a more positive childbirth experience.
  • Moms who used doulas after birth may have more success with breastfeeding.

Show Sources


DONA International: "Birth Doula FAQ."

International Childbirth Education Foundation: "Doula Certification."

International Childbirth Education Foundation: "Get Certified as a Labor Doula."

Tracy Wilson Peters, CEO, Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association.

DONA International: "How to Hire a Doula."

DONA International: "What is a Doula?"

DONA International: "Why Use a Doula?"

E. Hodnett, Cochran Database of Systemic Reviews, February 16, 2011.

DONA International: "Post Partum Doula FAQs."

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