What Is a Doula?


By Anika Puri @anikapuri

AnikapuriThe word Doula is a Greek word which means ‘Women who serve’ and in a nutshell this is what we do – we do everything it takes for women who are in labour. This could range from massaging them, helping them move around in the labour room to keep their contractions progressing smoothly, reminding them to eat or pee, supporting Dads and most importantly, motivating them to believe in their own potential to be able to achieve the birth of their choice.


Doulas or labour support professionals have existed through all of time in some form or the other – as mothers, friends, sisters, ‘sage femme’ which means wise women, ‘witches’ known for their use of potions and herbs which eased birth for women and of course in India as Dais.

Doulas begin their role during the antenatal period itself when we initiate a bond between a couple and ourselves by meeting regularly and developing a strong friendship so that they feel confident in our ability to support them. In 1975 two obstetricians John Kennel and Marshall Klaus conducted a study of women in labour who were supported by other women and those who were not. They found that having another woman’s support in labour helped to raise oxytocin levels and helped labour to progress more smoothly than those who didn’t. The thing that give Moms in labour the most security when it comes to Doulas is that we are the only birth professionals who are with them from when they find out they are in labour to after the first breastfeed. Doctors and Nurses alike all come and go.


Doula work is the most emotional, passionate, rewarding career for a woman – at least I believe so! To be able to share in the births of so many Mom is not only most humbling but also allows you the privilege of almost becoming a Mom again and again yourself J.  Every Mom becomes your family and it is not clichéd to say you share in their joys and feel their pain. Being present in that labour room and supporting moms go through a process as natural as birth, you understand how little is in your control and yet how powerful a woman is to be able to ride labour and birth and find the strength to almost tailor make it for herself.


When we start off with birth classes, we find Moms apprehensive about how they will cope in labour, with the pain of labour but with a Doula, you also have at hand all the natural pain management tools which we are adept at using. You have someone with you whom you have learnt to care about, whom you feel safe with at a time when you feel most vulnerable and most anxious. She is holding your hand, putting counter pressure on your hips, thighs and gluteal areas taking the edge of your contractions. During your contractions, she helps you breathe out long deep breaths and in between, she massages your tension points helping you to relax. All the while, she whispers soft encouraging words in your ears.

She burns lavender to help soothe your nerves and plays soothing music so incept the messages of pain your brain may be receiving. In every eye contact she sends you the strength, the knowledge to know that you can do this; you can birth your baby. She increases your confidence in your body, in your soul and in your spirit. She cares for both you and your partner ensuring your bellies are full and your bladders are empty; liaises between the medical staff, your family members and yourself. She is your sister in labour, your best friend, your guide. She is your Doula.



More about: Anika Puri – Head, Maternity Services, Fortis Healthcare Ltd

Anika believes in empowering women with the information and tools to be able to achieve the birth and motherhood of their choice and has over 7 years’ experience as a birth professional, first working in London and then in India. She enjoys equipping young parents-to-be with information and healing and providing symptom relief in the pregnancy and post pregnancy stage with combination holistic treatments; Massage, Reiki and Reflexology.

Anika has worked extensively with women in labour extending Doula support, assisting them with breastfeeding and helping them remain comfortable during pregnancy and labour through holistic healing techniques. She is the only practitioner in India to use reflexology as a tool for natural induction, better positioning of breech babies and balancing of the endocrine system. Anika has written extensively on pregnancy and parenting issues across publications like Child, Parenting and various websites along with a blog on the trials and tribulations of motherhood.





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