Doula Definition

What is a Doula?midwife-doula with pregnant woman

A doula, most simply, is a person (most often a woman) who assists a woman and her partner in the process of becoming a parent. Doulas provide emotional, mental, and physical support before, during, and after labor and delivery.


History of the Doula

The word doula is from the Greek word for “maidservant,” and was first used by a medical anthropologist named Dana Raphael in her book, The Tender Gift.


Women have been assisting other women in the process of birth and child-rearing for as long as history has been recorded, so the concept of a doula is ancient and familiar. In many cultures, it is the mothers, aunts, sisters, and grandmothers who have come alongside to give support, wisdom, care, and knowledge. In more recent history, birth in large part transitioned to a medical, hospitalized experience. With this change, family members were replaced by nurses and hospital staff, however the personalized care and support of the family was not. Thus- the doula. Families found that doulas could assist and advocate for their increasing desire for uplifting and positive birth experiences. Their services continue to grow in popularity as women and families find the experienced hands and care of a doula more and more indispensable, whether they are planning for birth to take place in a hospital, birth center, or their own homes.