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Position Papers

Birth doulas make a difference

The doula is emerging as a positive contribution to the care of women in labor. By attending to the woman’s emotional needs, some obstetric outcomes are improved. Just as importantly, the early mother-infant relationships and breastfeeding are enhanced. Women’s satisfaction with their birth experiences and even their self-esteem appears to improve when a doula has assisted them through childbirth.

Download the DONA International Position Paper: The Birth Doula’s Contribution to Modern Maternity Care (PDF)


Labor Support Terminology

The terminology describing labor support can be confusing. When a person uses any of the terms below to describe herself, she may need to clarify what she means by the term.

Doula – a Greek word meaning a woman who serves. In labor support terminology,a doula refers to a specially trained birth companion (not a friend or loved one) who provides labor support. She performs no clinical tasks. Doula also refers to lay women who are trained or experienced in providing postpartum care (mother and newborn care, breastfeeding support and advice, cooking, child care, errands, and light cleaning) for the new family. To distinguish between the two types of doulas, the terms birth doulas and postpartum doulas are used.

Monitrice – a French word originally used by Fernand Lamaze to refer to a specially trained nurse or midwife who provides nursing care and assessment, in addition to labor support. Today, monitrice is often used as a synonym for birth assistant or labor assistant.

Labor Support Professional, Labor Support Specialist, Labor Companion – synonyms for birth doula.

Birth Assistant, Labor Assistant – sometimes these terms are used as synonyms for doula, but also may refer to lay women who are trained to assist a midwife (vaginal exams, set up for birth, fetal heart checks, etc.) as well as to provide some labor support.

Questions to Ask a Birth Doula

In selecting a doula, the following questions should help expectant parents make a good decision. These same questions might also be asked by maternity care professionals who wish to know more.

  • What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you might consider checking with the organization)
  • Tell me about your experience with birth, personally and as a doula.
  • What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners through labor?
  • May we meet to discuss our birth plans and the role you will play in supporting me through birth?
  • May we call you with questions or concerns before and after the birth?
  • When do you try to join women in labor? Do you come to our home or meet us at the hospital?
  • Do you meet with us after the birth to review the labor and answer questions?
  • Do you work with one or more back up doulas for times when you are not available?
  • May we meet them?
  • What are your fees and your refund policies?

Learn more in the For Mothers & Families section of this website
How to Hire a Doula





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