The word doula is an ancient Greek term that translates into “caregiver” or “woman of service” and has been used over the past several decades to describe a woman who provides various non-medical support measures such as emotional support, pain management and relaxation techniques, and information to pregnant people. Support can consist of anything from recommending books about pregnancy to helping make a birth plan to offering a hand to hold or giving a massage during labor or an abortion procedure. Having a doula can provide pregnant people with the tools to self-advocate in a medical setting and ensure that their experiences are honored and that they are safe. In addition, doulas are there to help validate the women’s experiences and choices surrounding their pregnancy outcomes, on their terms.
Doulas offer continuous encouragement and reassurance to their clients and have traditionally worked with pregnant people who plan to give birth. In recent years, however, some doulas and reproductive health and justice activists have expanded the term to include women across the entire spectrum of pregnancy, including birth, abortion, and fetal loss.