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What does a doula do?

doula /ˈduːlə/


  1. a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth


Doula - the word is new but the concept is ancient.

I have been reading Reclaiming Childbirth as a Rite of Passage by Rachael Reed (well, listening to it actually, who has time to read with four small kids at home?!) Women throughout history, or "herstory" as Reed calls it, didn't birth alone. They were always surrounded by women, and usually a lot of women. They had their mothers, sisters, aunties, wise medicine women and their doulas around them as they nestled into their safe space and prepared to bring their baby into the world. These women did everything from preparing and bringing food and drinks to the labouring woman, to cleaning and tidying the birth space and ensuring it was quiet and dark, to physically supporting the woman through her contractions with natural pain relief techniques, to emotionally supporting her with words of encouragement and wisdom. The wise women would watch for complications and administer herbal remedies, position changes or hands-on interventions if the need arose, which it very rarely did. After the baby was born the women would rejoice with the new mother and honour her as she emerged from Maiden and into Mother. They would make more food and drinks, clean up the mess, help the woman establish a breastfeeding relationship with her baby and make her warm and comfortable.

So how does this translate to modern-day doulas?

Society has evolved and changed so much so that it is considered normal now for women to birth in a room full of strangers, often men, and only her partner for support. Often she is fighting for autonomy and basic rights in a system of bullying and obstetric violence, under bright lights and in a sterile, cold and uninviting room. It is harder than ever for a woman to remain in her primal brain during labour and not have to engage her frontal cortex because she is constantly being interrupted and asked to think and make decisions. There are SO many ways in which a doula can help!


We provide support during your pregnancy.

We make a birth plan together, work through any fears, figure out what you really want for your birth and how you are most likely to achieve it. We share resources and information with you that will help you make informed decisions and reassure you when doubts or fears come in. We share techniques that can help during labour and recommend local providers. We are a supportive sounding board for ideas, thoughts, fears and hopes. Often we can facilitate meaningful ceremonies such as Mother's Blessing Ceremonies to bring the women in your life together in support.

We provide support during your labour and birth.

We have done it before, we know what to try, what to say and not say, and how to help you relax and focus inward. We are the ancient feminine presence in a modern world. We help you move into and stay in the primal part of your brain where you can tune into and follow your instinct. We remind you of your strength when you feel like you can't go on anymore and you want to give up, and we stay with you through shift changes and plan changes. We bring you food and remind you to stay hydrated. We know ways of helping to relieve pain and distract you from it, and we will try different things until we find what works for you because we know that every birth and every woman is different.

We advocate for you.

In a setting where the clock is ticking, medical professionals may be pushing certain interventions or putting doubts in a vulnerable labouring woman's mind, we know what you want because we know you. We worked together on this during your pregnancy, remember? We will support you to achieve the birth you want even if you come up against resistance or doubt, and we will absolutely fight for your basic human right to make your own medical decisions.

We provide support after the baby is born.

We protect your precious newborn bubble and give you and your partner time and space to
meet and soak in your new person. This is a sacred moment and we treat it as such. We help clean up, bring you food and drinks, support in establishing breastfeeding and debrief about the birth. We help you to start emotionally processing the life-changing transformation you've just been through, and of course remind you of what an incredible job you just did!

I guess you could say that women are starting to re-realise the power of feminine energy in their birth space and understand the value of having the support of an experienced woman who is fiercely on their side. Not to mention the black and white statistics that show that doula support helps women achieve the births they want. So to answer the question: What does a doula do?

What we've always done.


Interested in having a chat with Rosie about how she could support you or someone you know?

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