What is a doula or a birth companion?

“Mothering the mother”

The word “doula” (from ancien Greek) is now used to refer to a trained and experienced woman who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to another woman and her family, before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.

  • She supports and informs women and parents, respecting their choices and their culture.
  • She facilitates the mother-baby relationship.
  • She helps preventing maternal difficulty, post-natal depression, ill treatment, and minimizes their impact on the whole family.
  • She is not a midwife or a doctor.
  • She is committed to confidentiality and professional secrecy.

Women supported by a doula during labour have been shown to have:

  • 50% reduction of cesarean rate
  • 25% shorter labour
  • 60% reduction in epidural requests
  • 30% reduction in analgesia use
  • 40% reduction in forceps delivery
From doulas.info website

French movie about the role of doulas, shot during the “Journées des Doulas 2011” in Paris.

An English speaking video about the role of a doula.

What a doula cannot do in France

If you are not aware of the French system, you may be surprised of some things you cannot do in France even if it is allowed in other countries. So here are the most important differences :

  • A doula does not replace the medical role of the midwife or gynecologist. She cannot give any medical advice (and if she does it is illegal).
  • A doula cannot be your doula if you do not want any medical care.
  • A doula cannot be at home with you during labour if there is no midwife or gynecologist. She cannot help you decide when to leave for the hospital.
  • In most maternities in France only one person is allowed in the delivery room. This means the doula is most often not allowed if your companion is with you (swapping between your companion and your doula is often forbidden too). There can be some exceptions in some maternities, depending on your own story, the medical team. The doula can sometimes be accepted as a translator.