Invaluable support during childbirth – who is a doula?
Pregnancy and childbirthPreparations
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Invaluable support during childbirth – who is a doula?

More and more pregnant women want to be accompanied during childbirth by a doula, who provides support throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period. What is a doula and why should you use her services?

Who is a doula?

A doula is a highly educated woman who usually has extensive experience in motherhood. She provides support to the pregnant woman and her family during pregnancy, labor and postpartum. An experienced doula is often a calming influence on the pregnant woman – a support during the difficult moments of labor and postpartum. She also helps the pregnant woman better cope with extremely negative emotions such as fear, helplessness and anxiety. For many women the presence of a doula at the birth has proven to be indispensable.

A doula does not replace the birthing woman’s loved ones during labor. However, through her experience she provides support to the birth partner and even the entire family during pregnancy, labor and even postpartum. Often with the help of a doula a pregnant woman’s loved ones are able to understand and support her in difficult moments.

In addition to certified knowledge a doula must also have widely developed skills:

  • communication,
  • attentive listening
  • adapt to the situation.

Doula should also have a basic knowledge of massage, so she can help to relax the birthing woman.

The difference in the role of a doula and a midwife during a hospital birth

The most important difference between a doula and a midwife is medical training. A midwife has the authority and responsibility to care for a woman during pregnancy. During labor, it is mainly the midwife who performs all the tests and makes the appropriate decisions, taking responsibility for the life and health of the patient and her baby.

A doula most often does not have a medical background, but takes a course to prepare her for this role. Her main job is to support the birthing woman. While a midwife takes care of several birthing women at once, a doula devotes her time to one woman only.

The doula’s main task during labor is to help the woman cope with contractions and the stress of labor. She also acts as a liaison between the woman giving birth and medical personnel. She makes sure that medical information is understandable to the expectant mother.

The doula’s role does not end with the birth. Shortly after birth she makes sure that mother and newborn have skin-to-skin contact and that the first feeds are successful.

The importance of a doula during childbirth

Studies have shown the positive effects of a doula on the birthing woman by:

  • shortening the time to delivery,
  • decreased risk of cesarean delivery,
  • improved pain tolerance to contractions, thereby reducing the use of analgesics,
  • deepening the bond between the woman giving birth and her partner,
  • increased self-confidence as a mother,
  • fewer problems with breastfeeding.

Researchers are unsure of the reason for the doula’s positive effects on the birthing woman. Most likely the presence of a doula makes a woman feel more secure and reduces the production of stress hormones

Home birth with a doula

A doula accompanies the pregnant woman during a home birth if it is a medically assisted birth (midwife and physician). A doula is not a midwife, but usually has enough training to do her best to assist during an unexpected situation.

Duties of a doula

The Doula Association of Poland has developed a code of ethics and principles of conduct for the doula to follow, which are:

  • meeting before the birth,
  • assistance in developing a birth plan,
  • telephone/email support,
  • telephone/email support for the birth mother,
  • willingness to assist in the birth at a specified time,
  • support during and after the birth,
  • visits/contacts during labor,
  • support with newborn care and nursing,
  • emotional support throughout the postpartum period.

Main photo: MART PRODUCTION, source:

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