Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

What does a birth doula do?

7-minute read

Key facts

  • A doula is a non-medical companion who can support you physically and emotionally throughout childbirth.
  • During labour they can reassure and encourage you and help you with changing position, breathing, massage and relaxation.
  • After the birth, they can help you with feeding and adjusting to life at home with your newborn.
  • Doulas don't need to have any qualifications, but they may have undergone a doula training course.
  • Your doula can't provide health care or advice — this is the role of your doctor or midwife.

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?

Your doula may give you information to help you prepare for labour and birth. They will get to know you and help you work out a birth plan.

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.

Doulas are not covered by Medicare or private health insurance. They charge a private fee for their work.

How can I find a doula?

You can find a doula through organisations such as the Australian Doula College and Doula Network Australia. You can also ask your doctor or midwife if they have any recommendations.

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?

Doulas travel to the hospital or birth centre where you have your baby. They may also attend home births.

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

To find out more about employing a doula, contact the Australian Doula College, Australian Doulas or Doula Network Australia.

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

About doulas | Raising Children Network

Doulas support women with information and practical and emotional care during pregnancy and birth. Doulas work in homebirth and hospital settings.

Read more on website

The role of a birth support partner

A birth support partner can offer benefits to you and your baby. Learn here how to choose a partner as well as how to be a good birth support partner.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Who will support you in labour | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Read more on Queensland Health website

Pregnancy care & birth: private hospitals | Raising Children Network

Private hospitals offer comfortable, caring birth environments. Private obstetricians look after pregnancy care for women having a private hospital births.

Read more on website

Health professionals involved in your pregnancy

Information on the health professionals involved in your pregnancy, such as midwives, doctors and obstetricians.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Labour and birth: support people | Raising Children Network

Support people encourage you during labour and birth. The right support can help labour progress. Check with birth settings on rules about support people.

Read more on website

What is freebirth?

Freebirth is when you choose to have your baby without medical or midwifery assistance. This greater independence comes with some risks.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Antenatal classes

Antenatal classes (or labour and birthing classes) help you prepare for the birth of your baby and how to care for your newborn when you get home.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

VBAC: vaginal birth after caesarean | Raising Children Network

For many women, vaginal birth after caesarean – VBAC – is a safe and positive way to have a baby. Our guide explains VBAC’s possible benefits and risks.

Read more on website

Developing a birth plan - Better Health Channel

A birth plan is a written summary of your preferences for when you are in labour and giving birth.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.