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What Is A Doula?

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What you need to know

So, What is a Doula?

So, what is a doula?

That’s a wonderful question, and we’re glad you asked!

The word “doula” originates from a Greek word meaning “to serve.” Doulas are typically thought of as non-clinical, trained professional who provide physical, emotional, and informational support to individuals during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or postpartum. Doulas often work with expectant mothers and their families to help them prepare for and have a positive childbirth experience. They can provide guidance and support during labor, help the mother and her partner advocate for their needs and preferences, and offer postpartum support to help the mother and family adjust to the new baby.

Doulas can play an important role in helping women have a satisfying birth experience and in improving birth outcomes, such as reducing the likelihood of a cesarean delivery, the need for pain medication, and the length of labor. Some doulas are also trained to provide specialized care, such as supporting women with high-risk pregnancies, families using birth centers or planning home births, or those who want to use non-medical pain management techniques.

It’s important to note that doulas are typically not medical providers, but work alongside medical staff to provide emotional and physical support to the birthing person and their partner. Doulas do not perform clinical tasks, such as conducting vaginal exams or interpreting medical information, but they can provide information and resources to help the birthing person make informed decisions about their care.

Types of doulas
  • Birth doulas support clients during pregnancy, birth, and the early postpartum period.
  • Postpartum doulas typically focus more on the weeks (or months) following birth.
  • Full-spectrum doulas provide support in multiple areas surrounding maternal health.
  • Community-based doulas often serve clients in under-resourced communities and take on additional responsibilities with a focus on health equity and the social determinants of health.
Reduction In Cesarean Sections
Shorter Labors
Reduction In Epidural Use
Reduction In Pitocin Use
Reduction In Forceps Delivery

Currently, there is no federal regulation of the doula profession, and therefore, no universally-accepted competencies. However, there are standards for the level of care that doulas should provide. Doula organizations, such as Doulas of North America (DONA) and the International Association of Professional Birth Doulas (IAPBD), have established ethical standards and guidelines that doulas should follow in order to provide safe, ethical, and effective care to the individuals they serve.

These standards typically include requirements for doula training, continuing education, and certification, as well as guidelines for communication, informed consent, and scope of practice. For example, DONA’s ethical standards include guidelines for informed choice and decision-making, confidentiality, and respect for diversity, as well as provisions for ethical conduct in all aspects of doula work.

Although there are established standards for doulas, not all doulas may choose to be affiliated with a professional organization or adhere to the same standards. It is vitally important for individuals to research and carefully choose a doula who meets their specific needs and expectations.


A doula and a midwife are two different types of healthcare providers who serve different roles in the birth process.

A midwife is a trained professional who provides primary care to individuals during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Midwives are licensed to diagnose and treat medical conditions, and they can provide medical interventions such as prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum care. In some cases, midwives may also perform surgeries, such as cesarean deliveries.

Doulas do not diagnose medical conditions or provide medical treatment, but they can provide information and resources to help the birthing person make informed decisions about their care. Doulas may also provide comfort measures, such as massage or positioning, to help manage pain and discomfort during labor.

Although midwives and doulas serve different roles in the birth process, they often work together as part of a birth team to provide comprehensive care to the birthing person. While midwives are responsible for providing medical care and managing any complications that may arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, doulas are responsible for providing emotional and physical support and advocating for the birthing person’s needs and preferences.

Ultimately, the choice between a midwife and a doula (or both) will depend on your specific needs and preferences, as well as the resources and options available in your area. It’s important to research and carefully consider all options, and to discuss any questions or concerns with your healthcare provider, to ensure that you receive the care and support that’s right for you.


The selection of a doula can be an overwhelming experience for many. You may still have a number of open/unanswered questions, fears, hesitations and concern — and that’s exactly why BirthWise Doula Services is here for you. We want to answer your questions, share our insights and experiences, and help dispel and disprove the misinformation circulating around pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum care.

We would love to have a conversation with you — all you have to do is contact us or make an appointment.

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