What is a doula?
A doula is a non-medical companion who can help support you before, during and after childbirth. A doula can support you both physically and emotionally.
Doulas don't replace your birth support partner, if you have one, during labour and birth. They can work with your partner to help you have the best birth experience you can.
A doula should be respectful and a good listener, knowing the boundary between their role and the role of your doctor or midwife.
What is my doula's role?
A doula's role is to focus on your needs and provide ongoing support from pregnancy until after your baby is born.
If you are a refugee, if you have immigrated to Australia from another country or if you prefer a language other than English, it can be especially helpful to have a doula who shares your cultural background and preferred language.
What will a doula do during my pregnancy?
How can a doula help during my labour and birth?
Some ways your doula might support you during labour and birth include:
- reassuring and motivating you and boosting your self-confidence
- keeping you informed about how your labour is progressing
- helping you into whatever position you'd like to be in and assisting you in and out of the shower or bath
- massage and applying heat packs
- help with breathing or other calming strategies
- giving you drinks or ice
- supporting your partner
How can a doula help after my baby is born?
Your doula may help you get to know your baby. Along with your midwife and child health nurse, your doula may help you learn how to feed your baby, settle them and generally care for them. Some doulas may also help you with household chores, preparing meals and caring for older children, if you have any.
How do doulas become qualified?
Doulas aren't required to have any specific qualifications. Some have had training in birth support. Doula training is available through various organisations, such as the Australian Doula College and Australian Doulas.
What's the difference between a doula and a midwife?
Midwives are health professionals. Some are qualified nurses who have undertaken extra study to become a midwife, while others have completed a midwifery degree at university. Practising midwives must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.
Birth doulas do not have medical training and it's not part of their role to provide medical or health care advice. If you are having a home birth, you should have a trained midwife with you.
How can I find a doula?
What questions should I ask my doula?
It's important to meet with the doula during your pregnancy to build a healthy, trusting relationship. Like all relationships, there is no guarantee of a good 'fit' with the first doula you meet.
It's a good idea to make a list of questions to ask them, based on what's important to you. Here are some questions you might want to ask:
- What training or experience have you had?
- What services do you provide?
- What are your fees and charges?
- Do you have a Working with Children Check and Police Check?
- Are you are up to date with their vaccinations, particularly whooping cough and influenza?
- Can you provide any testimonials from previous clients?
Where do doulas work?
When should I introduce my doula to my pregnancy care provider?
Speak with your pregnancy care provider about your plans to include a doula in your care. If possible, ask your doula to come to a few antenatal appointments so they can meet each other.
Your relationship with your doula will be different to your relationship with your doctor or midwife. There are different benefits from having both involved in your care. Ideally, your doula and your doctor or midwife will complement each other's skills and roles.
It's important that your doula cooperates with the hospital or birth centre staff. Your doula will need to leave the room if your doctor or midwife asks them to — for example, in an emergency.
Resources and support
You can learn more about how a doula can serve as your birth support partner, and provide assistance during labour and birth.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: May 2023