What is a Doula?

A doula is a professional who provides physical support, emotional support and counseling to families through all stages of pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and the postpartum period.  The overall goal is to support and encourage a safe, nurturing and joyful process of childbirth for the family.


The world “doula” comes from the ancient Greek language meaning “a woman who serves”.  It referred to the widespread act of having another woman helping mothers who are giving birth. This natural behavior of partnership and support has led to the modern concept of the doula in the United States and worldwide.

Medical Aspects

Studies have shown that when doulas support women during labor, there is a shorter duration of labor, less C-sections, decreased need for medications for artificial labor, and decreased need for instruments to manually deliver the unborn baby [1].  Doulas work in a variety of settings such as the home, delivery room, and maternity ward. They are the familiar face in a sea of unfamiliar personnel that an expectant mother would face.  They are one non-medical part of the whole pregnancy team along with midwives, obstetricians, and nurses.  You can learn more about the types of doulas.

Training and Credentialing

While no formal training is required to be a doula, it is strongly recommended.  Training programs exist for those are just getting started, visit our page specifically on training and credentialing.  There is no reason to be intimidated by the number of resources.  If you are looking for a way to build your own doula career, we provide everything you would need.


[ 1 ] Zhang J, Bernasko JW, Leybovich E, et al. Continuous support from labor attendant for primiparous women: a meta-analysis. Obstet Gynecol. 1996. 88: 739-44.