What is a doula?
A doula supports women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood.
It is becoming increasingly common for women to use a doula in addition to receiving pregnancy care from a midwife. Birth doulas provide flexible and continuous support before, during and often after the child is born. They may help with other children, encourage a partner with support while the child is being born, nurture and support the mother, and give support to help establish breastfeeding.
Having a doula present can:
- shorten first-time labour by an average of two hours,
- decrease the chance of caesarean section by 50% and
- decrease the need for pain medication.
In addition, having a doula present helps other birth partners participate with confidence.
Types of doula
There are two types of doula – birth and postnatal – and some cover both areas.
A birth doula offers physical and emotional support to you (and your partner) during labour and delivery. They don’t do anything medical but are a continuous, reassuring presence. Most (but not all) doulas are mothers themselves and may or may not have done additional training. Doulas listed on the Doula UK website will have completed a recognised Doula UK course.
NCT provides a service called NCT Doula, which provides one-to-one support for parents from late pregnancy, through labour, delivery, and into the first hours and weeks with their new baby.
There are also postnatal doulas who will support you at home after the child is born – ‘mothering the mother’ – to help you as you start life with your new baby.
Whoever you choose to support you when your baby is born, it's important that you feel as relaxed and confident as possible.
Doula UK provides information about doula services in the UK.
NCT Doulas provide women, and their partners, with skilled physical and emotional assistance, as well as up-to-date knowledge, information and encouragement to help them have the type of labour and birth they would most like. NCT Doulas are all qualified professionals who have completed a nine-month course, developed by NCT in partnership with the University of Worcester, which is a recognised Doula UK course.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about having a baby, labour and life with a new child.