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What is a doula?

Doulas are professionally trained women who provide emotional, practical and informational support and care for you and your baby before, during and after labour and delivery. Doulas do not provide any medical or surgical care.

Are there different types of doulas?

There are three types of doulas:

  • Antepartum doulas are trained to provide physical, emotional and practical prenatal support and information prior to childbirth. For example, they direct you to support groups and important books and websites, provide massage and teach relaxation techniques, and assist with errands and needs around the home, such as meal preparation.
  • Birth doulas are professionally trained to provide support to you and your partner during labour and delivery. They are able to help you and your partner remain focused and help you navigate through information and options as the labour progresses. They can also help you find the most comfortable positions and encourage relaxation techniques, and provide breast-feeding support. Throughout the birth experience they will provide continuous emotional reassurance and comfort for you.
  • Postpartum doulas are trained or experienced women who provide care to you and your newborn after delivery. Depending on your needs, they can assist with light housework and childcare, and provide more information and support for breastfeeding.

How are doulas trained?

Training may generally consist of an intensive two or three day seminar that includes hands-on experience in breathing, relaxation, and positioning skills. They also learn other comfort measures like massage and movements to reduce pain.

Doulas can be certified by local, national and international organisations. Certification may include observation of several birth classes, a doula-training course and a written exam.

Where can I find a doula?

You can find doulas through any of the following places:

How do I know if I have found a good doula?

Trust your instincts. It is a good idea for you and your partner to meet with the doula and interview her. You may wish to interview more than one doula to help find the right one for you.

When choosing a doula you may want to consider the following:

  • how well she listens;
  • how comfortable she seems with your choices;
  • her training and experience with birth–personally and as a doula;
  • her philosophy about childbirth and the role partners may or may not play;
  • her fee and references;
  • where has she worked before–for example, home, hospitals, birth centres; and
  • if she works alone or as part of a team–if as a team, you may want to meet the other doulas should she not be available at the time of labour.

Where can I go for more information?