Credit: Jackie Dives

Trained and skilled, birth doulas can offer the support you need during your pregnancy and labour

Choosing a doula, someone to support you through one of the most important times of your life, is an incredibly important decision

Women giving birth with the assistance of female companions is not a new concept. Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and neighbours often assisted a labouring mother in her home. Over the years, as families became more physically distant from each other, it has become more common for a woman to choose a doula to accompany her throughout her pregnancy and birthing.

A doula is hired for the purpose of prenatal education, emotional and physical support during labour, and postpartum assistance. Doulas are trained (through certification or by a mentor) to support women and their families at home or in the hospital. A doula will meet with you and your partner before birth to discuss your birth plan, and will be with you continuously through labour.

Doula Duties:

  • Creating a peaceful and calm atmosphere by keeping lights low, lighting candles, talking quietly
  • Reassuring you that the feelings and sensations you are experiencing are safe
  • Providing massage and acupressure suggestions as comfort measures and relaxation
  • Advocating and helping communicate between mother and care providers
  • Suggesting position changes to help labour progress safely and comfortably
  • Reminding you to stay hydrated
  • Attending early labour before your primary care provider is able to arrive, provide continuity of care, and helping in the transition from labouring at home to arriving at the hospital

According to the findings of Hodnett’s et al meta analysis of 15 trials from North America, Europe and Africa, women cared for during labour by a birth doula, compared to those receiving usual care were:

  • 26% less likely to give birth by Caesarean section
  • 41% less likely to give birth with a vacuum extractor or forceps
  • 28% less likely to use any analgesia or anesthesia
  • 33% less likely to be dissatisfied or negatively rate their birth experience

Choosing a Doula

A good place to start is to ask your care provider or friends if they have any recommendations. If you would like to access several doulas in a short amount of time, Doula Speed Dating can be a good method of interviewing.

Newborn child staring longingly into his mother's eyes
Being comfortable with your doula is of the utmost importance. (Image: Jackie Dives)

Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Doula

Method of Training and/or Certification

Consider which certifying body they have chosen and if it aligns with your ideals. Also consider that many doulas have been formally trained but have chosen not to be certified because it might limit them in the techniques they are allowed to use. Ultimately, it's important for you to feel very comfortable around the doula you've chosen, and confident that they will support your birth decisions.

Some certifying bodies:


Are they experienced with the type of birth you are planning, whether it be hospital, home, water birth, or VBAC? And how long have they been practicing?

Special Skills

You will probably find that all of the doulas you interview are lovely. It might come down to the special skills they can bring to your birth. Some doulas are trained in additional techniques such as acupuncture, massage, or have taken a certification such as Hypnobabies. Others are able to provide professional photography of your birth, or placenta encapsulation.

Jackie Dives in a certified birth doula and photographer with experience attending home and hospital births. In addition to her private doula practice, she is a volunteer photographer and area coordinator for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and is working towards a certificate in addictions counselling. Website | Email