Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between a birth doula and a midwife?

In Ontario, a midwife is a primary health care provider who specializes in normal birth. A woman may choose to see a midwife, a family practitioner or an obstetrician throughout her pregnancy and birth. If she chooses a midwife, she does not see a doctor for prenatal care or the birth unless a health concern arises.

A birth doula provides non-clinical care and support. A doula does not perform medical procedures such as blood pressure checks or pelvic exams, and does not catch babies. A doula provides education, physical comfort measures and emotional support.

A doula's only responsibility is to the comfort and emotional well being of the woman and her birth companion(s). She works for you, not the hospital or midwife.

Doesn't a doula take the place of the mother's partner then?

A doula works with the mother and her partner or other birth companion(s) to provide support and assistance, helping them work together.

For more information, see the section Partners & Doulas.

Is it true that doulas push natural childbirth and won't let their clients have epidurals?

Doulas have a great deal of education and experience with the normal course of labour and birth.

They know that most women can give birth naturally with no complications, and that an unmedicated birth has many advantages for both mother and child. Doulas also recognize that circumstances may arise which make interventions essential. Each doula has a personal philosophy of labour support that varies from doula to doula.

I am committed to helping you have the birth you want. During our prenatal visits we will discuss the risks and benefits of a range of interventions, your preferences for pain relief, and your feelings about methods of childbirth. I will help you draft a birth plan, and brainstorm questions for your caregivers.

In the end, it's your body, your baby, your birth. I will support your decisions, whatever they may be.

Some of my friends have had problems with breastfeeding. Don't I need a lactation consultant instead of or in addition to a postpartum doula?

There's a two-part answer to this question. The first part is that it's important for women to know that the term "lactation consultant", like the term"doula", is not regulated. Anyone can use it, and it does not denote or imply any particular level of training. Most women, when using the term "lactation consultant", are probably thinking of an IBCLC - an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. This is a very advanced level of training, taking many years to complete. It requires 2500-4000 hours of experience before you can sit the certifying exam. So, if someone tells you she's an LC, you should ask what kind of training she's had.

That being said, most women don't need the services of an IBCLC. Most breastfeeding problems are resolved by fixing the way the mother holds the baby and the way the baby latches on to the breast. A trained postpartum doula will recognize when there is a more serious problem that requires referral to a specialist.

Where does the word "doula" come from?

"Doula" is the feminine form of the ancient Greek word "doulos", meaning bondsman or slave.

Historically, a woman of property was probably attended in childbirth by her closest woman servant.

Nowadays it has come to mean a woman who serves another woman during labour by providing knowledgeable support and physical comfort. Also known as "mothering the mother".

Who's Lucina?

The Roman goddess of childbirth, Lucina eased the pain and made sure all went well.

According to The History Net, Juno Lucina was an aspect of the goddess Juno associated with light and childbirth. Her name lucina probably comes from the Latin lucus (grove).

By the second century B.C., Juno Lucina was associated with childbirth because the name Lucina was thought to have come from the Latin word lux (light).

Other sources call her an aspect of Diana, goddess of the moon and the natural world.