What is a doula?

A doula is a person who can support you through pregnancy, labour and birth, or after you have your baby. They aren’t medically trained.

Doulas support women and families in all kinds of situations, wherever and however you want to give birth and whatever your parental choices are. The service they offer will vary according to what your needs are.

Doulas are usually experienced women who have completed some basic training but are not medically trained and can’t replace the clinical care you’ll get from your midwife or doctor. They provide practical and emotional support. They don’t give advice but can help you find balanced information to make informed decisions. Some doulas work as both birth and postnatal doulas, while others work only as birth doulas or postnatal doulas.

Generally, birth doulas can:

  • provide practical and emotional support
  • meet you when you’re pregnant and spend time getting to know you
  • support you however you’re planning to give birth, for example a planned caesarean birth, home birth or water birth
  • talk to you about any questions or concerns during your pregnancy and help you with your birth plan
  • provide one-to-one support during labour, encouraging and reassuring you along the way.

Generally, postnatal doulas can:

  • provide practical and emotional support to you and your family
  • support you to be the parent you want to be
  • give you confidence in all elements of baby care
  • support you to feed your baby
  • give new parents the opportunity to talk things through.

What are the benefits of having a doula?

The benefits of having a doula will depend on what you want one for.

Some women want someone who makes them feel comfortable and who they know and trust during labour. A doula can be part of your birth team, alongside another birth partner, or if you do not have someone suitable to support you.

Other women want someone who will get to know them well during pregnancy, as well as support them through labour. Having this continuity of care and support may be especially important to you if you don’t see the same midwife during your antenatal appointments.

Research has found that women who had continuous support during labour and birth are less likely to have:

Having a doula may also help you if you are particularly vulnerable or need more specific culturally sensitive support. For example, if you prefer to keep your body covered during birth.

How much do doulas cost?

Some doulas are self-employed and clients pay them directly or they work for organisations in their local area. Others may volunteer or work in the NHS.

How much a doula will charge can vary, depending on:

  • where they work
  • how much experience they have
  • what they include in their fee
  • what they feel their service is worth.

As the service can vary, it’s best to contact individual doulas and ask about their services and fees directly.

Some women who don’t have a birthing partner can access a doula at a nominal rate through the charity Birth Companions. It supports women in prisons across England and in some areas of London.

Doulas Without Borders is an voluntary organisation which supports women in vulnerable times and financial hardship during pregnancy, birth and early motherhood. It has a network of voluntary doulas across the UK.

Are doulas insured?

Not all doulas are insured and some doulas practice without training (there is no national regulation) Again, it’s best to ask your doula about training and insurance when you contact them.

How can I find a doula?

Doulas usually meet with potential clients for an ‘interview’ before being booked. This gives both you and your potential doula the opportunity to see if you are a good fit for each other.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) has a doula service across England and Scotland. These doulas have all completed a nine-month course recognised by Doula UK and developed by NCT in partnership with the University of Worcester. All NCT doulas have professional insurance.

Doula UK is a membership association of doulas in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Channel Islands. All members of Doula UK have completed a Doula UK approved preparation course and are recommended to have appropriate insurance.


Read more about labour and birth

  • Woman in hospital bed holding bump during labour


    Asking for pain relief during labour

    You should feel that your needs and wishes are being listened to during labour, particularly around pain relief. Every labour and birth is unique and care should be tailored to you.

  • Heavily pregnant woman sat at home with soft lighting looking down at her bump with a neutral expression

    The latent phase of labour

    This part of labour can sometimes last a long time. This page explains what the latent phase of labour is and how to get through it as comfortably as possible.

  • A baby asleep in his mum's arms


    Week 41. Hello baby - my birth story

    In the diary of a third pregnancy our diarist tries to capture the pain and magic of the birth of her son.

  • A photo of a heavily pregnant woman sat on the sofa listening to music with her eyes closed

    What is hypnobirthing?

    Hypnobirthing is a method of pain management that can be used during labour and birth. It involves using a mixture of visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques.

  • A new mum and dad looking down at their newborn baby

    Having a home birth

    You might like to consider giving birth at home for a more relaxed experience in familiar surroundings. Find out whether this is the right option for you.

  • Waterbirth

    How to prepare for a water birth

    Are you thinking about having a water birth? Find out about the advantages and disadvantages of giving birth in the water, what to wear and what the pain relief options are.

  • Woman with baby resting on her chest after giving birth.

    Delayed cord clamping (DCC)

    Cutting the cord immediately after the birth has been routine practice for 50-60 years but more recently research is showing that it is not good for the baby.

  • Pregnant woman holding her back.

    What to expect when your waters break

    If your waters break naturally, you may feel a slow trickle or a sudden gush of fluid that you can’t stop. Your waters may break before you go to hospital but are more likely to break during labour.

  • Pregnant woman holding her back.

    Braxton Hicks

    Braxton Hicks contractions are the body’s way of preparing for labour, but if you have them it doesn’t mean your labour has started. Here, we explain more about Braxton Hicks.

  • Pregnant woman in a yoga class

    5 positive ways to prepare for labour

    If you’re feeling a bit anxious about giving birth, there are things you can do that may help. Here’s some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.

  • Pregnant woman sitting on exercise mat.

    Getting your baby into the best birth position

    The ideal position for your baby to be in for labour and birth is head down, their back towards the front of your stomach.

  • Pregnant woman holding her back.

    4 ways your body gets ready for labour

    At the end of your pregnancy, you may have some signs that your baby will arrive very soon, even though you may not go into labour for a little while yet.

    Last reviewed on July 25th, 2019. Next review date July 25th, 2022.

    Was this information useful?

    Yes No