Doula is a Greek word which means, "To mother the mother." In nearly every culture in history, women have been surrounded and cared for by other women during childbirth. Artists, who have depicted child birth throughout the world, show other women surrounding and supporting the birthing woman. One of these women is the midwife who assists with the safe passage of the baby and the mother. The other women are behind or beside the mother holding and comforting her.
The modern day doula is the women beside the mother. The doula's role is to provide, physical, emotional, and educational support to the woman and her partner during labor and birth.
Studies have found that birth companions, of whom doulas are one type, offer numerous benefits both to the mother and child. Women with the support of a doula, experience fewer hours of labor than those without. Furthermore, they require less pain medication, and in many studies, fewer caesarian deliveries.
Newborns in supported births have lower rates of fetal distress and fewer are admitted to neonatal intensive care units. In addition, one study found that 6 weeks after delivery, a greater proportion of doula supported women were breastfeeding. These women also reported greater self-esteem, less depression, a greater connection to their babies and more confidence in their ability to care for them.