A doula is a person whose role is to ‘mother the mother’, by giving a woman and her family information and support during pregnancy, birth and in the first weeks after the birth.
A doula can work in any setting where you have your baby, including birth centres. You arrange and pay for a doula yourself, if you want to have one.
During pregnancy, a doula might:
- give you information about pregnancy and birth
- support you as you plan for the birth
- talk about previous births and other life experiences that might impact on the birth.
During labour and birth, a doula might:
- suggest positions, movements and changes that help ease pain during labour
- guide your breathing and help you relax
- give you massage, water, hot packs, aromatherapy and other things to comfort you and create the environment you want
- help remove distractions
- reassure and encourage you, and talk you through emotions during labour
- speak on your behalf about your pregnancy care and birth preferences, if necessary.
After the birth, a doula might visit you to provide practical and emotional support. Some women hire a doula just for after the birth, to provide practical and emotional support.
You can talk with the doula about exactly how you would like her to be involved in your pregnancy, birth and postnatal care.
Many women say that their birth experiences were more positive when they had a doula. Women say they needed less pain relief and fewer birth interventions.
Doulas are not trained in clinical care, so you’ll still need a midwife. It’s a good idea to let your midwife know if you have a doula involved in your care.
Before choosing a doula, it’s a good idea to find out about a doula’s experience and training. There are no specific qualifications for working as a doula, but many doulas do training in professional birth support, and some are qualified in other therapies like massage and yoga.
To choose a doula, you can:
- use the Find a doula website or the Doula Directory website
- contact the Australian Doula College on (02) 9569 8020 or 1300 139 157 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re in Western Australia, you can go to Australian Doulas.