Women having a supportive companion during birth can be found dating back to prehistoric times. Stone carvings and statues have been discovered throughout history. The term doula was first used labeled in the 1960’s when women began breaking the new norm of medicated births and started having women attend them who had experience in childbirth. Dana Raphael was compelled to do an anthropological study that acknowledged the use for supported births from other women with experience. This birth support provided a positive outcome and led to mothers having successful and long term breastfeeding. She labeled these women a “doula”, meaning “a women’s slave” in Greek.
A doula’s role in the birth process encompasses the meaning of the word. A doula is a woman who adds support to the mother and partner sometimes known as a birth companion, birth coach or birth supporter. A doula may provide physical assistance such as massage or supporting postures, emotional support such as encouragement or advocating to support the birthing mother’s rights. Doula’s also provide information of the birth process and what procedures or medication might be available and it’s pros and cons in the birth process.