A doula is someone who offers physical and emotional support to a pregnant/birthing person and their partner.

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That’s it!

Seems simple enough, right?

But what exactly does “physical and emotional support” mean and why in the world do you need it?

One of my favorite analogies is that giving birth without a doula is like climbing Mount Everest without a sherpa.

Sherpas are expert mountaineers. They know the terrain. They have special skills they have honed with experience. They are guides that help lead people through both expected and unexpected challenges.

So think of a doula as your birth sherpa! A doula knows the language and nuances of birth. They know the “terrain” or the places where you may choose to give birth. They help you navigate both expected and unexpected challenges during pregnancy and birth. They are your guide.

  • If you’re unsure what kind of birth experience you want, your doula is there to talk things out and help you create birth preferences that are right for you.

  • If you’re feeling nervous or impatient, your doula is there to reassure and guide you.

  • If your partner forgets all the things they learned in class, your doula is there to remind them how to help you.

  • Your doula knows physical, hands on, and breathing techniques to keep you comfortable and coping well during labor.

  • Your doula is there to support your decisions, even if it means straying from your original “plan.”

People often ask me if they should get a doula or a midwife and the answer is BOTH!

A doula is NOT medical personnel. Doulas don’t listen to your baby or check your dilation. They don’t catch your baby or check your blood pressure. We leave all that to the medical professionals. (Midwife or OB is another question for another day.)  

So go back to Everest for a moment. You can read all the books, watch all the videos, take all the classes, buy all the gear, but will you summit without the guide? Maybe. Maybe not. But would having a sherpa make the experience exponentially better knowing you were being led by someone knowledgeable who has your best interest at heart? Yeah, probably.

That, my friends, is birth with a doula.

Sure… you can absolutely birth without a doula. (No one stays pregnant for forever as much as it may seem like it in that 9th month, I know.) But a doula’s job is to help you and your partner feel supported, cared for, and heard, so you feel like you had your best birth.

Did you have a doula at your birth? What do you think a doula does?