Birth and Postpartum Doulas

Birth and postpartum doulas represent a new professional group of care providers, usually women, who support women and their families during labor, birth, and the postpartum period. Doula is a Greek word that means female servant.

Doulas receive education and training in order to provide support to childbearing women and new families. There are two types of doulas: one trained to provide labor and birth support; and one trained to provide support during the postpartum period. Some doulas are trained in both childbirth and postpartum specialties and many are certified through national organizations.

Doulas are not employed by the hospital, but rather hired independently by families to provide labor support. In that role, the doula meets with the family during pregnancy to determine their hopes and wishes for their birth experience. The doula stays with the family during labor and birth and visits the family postpartum to review the birth and help with questions about mother or baby care. Doulas do not provide nursing care and they do not replace the father or partner. In fact, they are there to support the father or partner in their role during labor and to assist the whole birth team in achieving a safe, satisfying birth. Many families have benefited from having a doula for labor support here at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

Postpartum doulas provide education, support, and help in the home after the baby is born. They assist with baby care, help with the care of other children, cook and do light housework, run errands, and provide emotional support. Postpartum doulas may be hired for a negotiated number of hours or days. Most want to come for at least three or four hours at a time. Each family determines their individual needs.

Doulas may belong to professional or community organizations or may be self-employed. Every doula should be able to provide references. The cost of a doula varies, sometimes dependent upon experience.

If you are interested in more information or finding a doula, you may wish to call:

Doulas of North America (DONA) at 888-788-DONA (3662), or email doula@dona.org.