What is a doula?

What is a doula?

There are two different types of doulas: birth doulas and postnatal doulas.


- Help women to prepare for birth by providing information, education and emotional support during pregnancy
- Help women to prepare a birth plan.
- Help dads to be more confident birth partners
- Can support a woman in who wishes to labour at home, in a birth centre or in a hospital
- DO NOT provide clinical or medical care, this is provided by a midwife or doctor.
- Provide continuity of care as they support the woman throughout her entire labour. (A doula can come to your home in early labour if you wish and can stay with you until baby is born. She is not bound by "shifts").
- Supports a woman in her choices for birth, whether that be for a "natural" birth, medically supported (e.g. epidural) or caesarean birth.


Postnatal doulas provide a very unique and essential service in today's busy society. They support mums in the months following the birth (for as long as mums want their help). They can help with breastfeeding, newborn care, sleep and settling techniques, house cleaning, babysitting older children, massage, debriefing fears and anxieties, looking after baby so mum can have a shower or sleep and can even stay overnight. They really nurture the mother and support a smooth transition to motherhood. 

Why have a doula?

Below is an excerpt from an article that does a great job at explaining the significant benefits of doula support. You can read the whole article here.

"A recent review of many studies from around the world have concluded that a doula’s support is more effective than hospital staff, friends or family. You can read the review here.

Studies consistently demonstrate very impressive benefits for the mother, father and baby, including:

  •  50% less caesarean sections
  • Reduction in the use of forceps by 40%
  • 60% less requests for epidurals
  • 40% reduction in the use of synthetic oxytocin for inductions or augmentations
  • 30% reduction in use of pain medication
  • 25% reduction in labour length
  • Increased rates of breastfeeding at 6 weeks post-partum (51% vs 29%)
  • Higher self-esteem (74% vs 59%), less anxiety (28% vs 40%) and less depression (10% vs 23%) at 6 weeks post-partum"

"If there was a machine that cost $200,000.00, reduced the cesarean rate by half, cut the length of labor by 2½ hours and decreased other interventions, hospitals would have 2, 3, or 4 of the machines. It's hard for us to believe that human support can have such a profound effect on a medical outcome."

~Dr. Marshall Klaus M.D., co-author of Mothering the Mother, talking about Doulas on the "Today Show"

How much does a doula cost?

Fees usually range between $500 - $1,500 depending upon experience and other expertise that the doula may have. Whilst this may sound like a lot of money, bear in mind that:

  • doulas often provide around 18+ hours of support during your pregnancy, birth and post partum (in some cases much more!) 
  • they are on-call for 4 weeks
  • they will miss family and social events to be there for you!

So you are getting a lot of value and commitment for your money!

Affording a doula may be easier than you think. Most doulas will be happy to arrange a payment plan so that you can pay it off during your pregnancy. Student doulas/doulas-in-training are often cheaper or sometimes free. Some doulas offer free or heavily discounted support for vulnerable women (e.g. teen mothers, single mothers, domestic violence victims).

Doulas are absolutely worth it and can make a huge difference to your birth and motherhood experience.

How to choose the right doula for you:

It is important that you choose a doula with whom you feel comfortable - otherwise it would defeat the purpose of having a doula! Talk to a couple of doulas over the phone, look at their online profiles and find out about their philosophies of birth. Usually doulas will offer a complimentary and obligation-free initial meeting so that you can properly choose who is right for you.

Click here for a great article on questions to ask a prospective doula (includes a printable interview sheet).

More info?

Here are two wonderful articles about what doulas do and their place in birth.

Doula Revolution - Doulas at Birth by Dr Chris Vose

What is a doula and why do so many women want one? By Kelly Winder

Here is a beautiful excerpt from the first article:

"I think Doulas are natural to birth. I'm sure a great many ordinary women have felt drawn to supporting birthing women since the beginnings of humanity… these are "Doulas" but when the focus of birth went into the hospital system these women were no longer able to offer their support.

... birth belongs to all women… not just those who have trained for years as midwives and if midwives monopolise birth they are in danger of doing the self same thing that some medical professionals have consistently tried to do to midwifery.

Part of the problem with the medicalisation of childbirth was the weakening of the role of the midwife. However, a bigger problem was the divorce of ordinary women from helping each other during the birth process. This created generations of childbirth disabled women… women who had never been near a birthing woman and who feared the process of childbirth, women who still believe they need medical interventions for birthing their babies.

The Doula is the ordinary woman who is reclaiming her place beside other ordinary women who are birthing their babies."