doulasUmmm, if you’re a pregnant woman, YOU do! Or at least, you would greatly benefit from having one of these amazing women present at your birth. Let me explain a little about what a doula is, and what she can do for a laboring woman, and then you tell me who needs a doula.

Hundreds of years ago, a woman in labor was almost always at home, surrounded by other women. Most of these women had already given birth before, and therefore, were able to assist and comfort the woman now giving birth. Often times, natural pain remedies and family traditions were passed down as well, and some births would have many generations of women from one family in the same room. This gave the pregnant woman a sense of strength and reassurance that her body could handle this amazing feat. Having more bodies available also meant that they could take breaks, get some rest, prepare nourishing food to keep the laboring woman strong, or hold her up during a strong contraction.

Things are a lot different today, as deliveries have moved to hospitals, the procedure has become more medicalized, pain meds often restrict moms to beds, and fewer people are allowed into the room to support the laboring woman. Nurses are understaffed and often do not get to provide continuous labor support to one woman. Depending on how long the labor takes, many shifts of nurses may have come and gone, none really getting to know the unique needs of the woman, or special requests of the birth plan. Many times the father is present and able to help support the mother-to-be, but he may be just as scared to see his wife in pain, especially if this is their first time. Sometimes this woman is alone, or just needs a little extra support and guidance.

According to Doulas of North America (DONA), a doula is someone who accompanies a woman in labor, helps by “mothering the mother”, and takes care of her emotional needs throughout childbirth. A doula also provides support and suggestions for partners that can enhance their experience of the birth. She may provide massage for aching muscles, hot and cold therapy to stop spasms and decrease pain, suggest new positions to labor in to move things along, give the mom something to focus on during a contraction, feed her a healthy snack to give her a boost of energy, and much more.  This person in no way replaces the roles of the father, the midwife, doctor or nurse. She is there strictly as a support system for the mother to make sure that her needs are met without stepping on anyone else’s toes. Some doulas even go the extra mile and take candid photographs throughout the birth, or write-up a beautiful birth story for the new family, capturing special moments otherwise forgotten in the craziness of the day. She can also help the father by giving him a chance to take a break or grab a bite of food, or tag-teaming on hip squeezes during difficult contractions. Dads need a break too!

Research studies have also shown that having a doula present at the birth can shorten labor time, decrease the need for pain meds, decrease the amount of medical interventions used, and enhance the overall birth experience for the mom. Decreased pain meds and medical interventions also lead to safer births, which have better outcomes for the baby. Babies born with doulas breastfeed more and have an easier time latching and beginning the breastfeeding relationship. This may be due to the fact that less pain meds are used, the mother may be less fatigued, or the doula herself may have training or knowledge of breastfeeding support. It’s kind of like having a built-in lactation consultant!

The doula acts as an advocate for the mother, but she never speaks for her or makes medical decisions for her. When nurses repeatedly offer her an epidural, a doula may gently remind the mother of her wishes for a natural birth. When hospital staff wants to perform a particular procedure or intervention, the doula may ask for a moment of privacy to discuss the procedure and risks vs. benefits with the parents. She may also ask for more time try what they are doing before moving on to the next thing.

Basically, a doula is an advocate, a massage therapist, a photographer, a storyteller, a lactation consultant, a natural pain med, a friend, a mother, a sister, a book of knowledge, a shoulder to cry on, and a support system who delivers food, gives others rest, and will forever be connected to your family on the most special day of your life.  Seriously. Who needs a doula anyway?

Click here for the benefits of having a doula present at a birth, such as decreased need for pain meds and fewer medical interventions.

For more info on doulas, please visit DONA International.


About the Author

Dr. Brenda Trudell is a chiropractor and owner of New Beginnings Chiropractic in Mount Horeb, WI. The clinic focuses on natural health, especially for women, pregnancy and children through chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, fitness, nutrition, essential oils, and more. As a female chiropractor, she understands the special circumstances surrounding women's health. Men and women are not created equal, and it is important to acknowledge that in the healthcare world. She strives to find the most current healthcare information to help all of her patients.

Dr. Trudell is available to present to groups on many different topics. Please contact the office for details or with any questions. Dr. Trudell is certified in the Webster Technique. For more information, visit or email at