So… Dr. Doula, why do you doula?

My conversations with Zinzile were rich and fulfilling while I was in South Africa. I used every available opportunity to ask questions about her work in maternal health with the Human Rights in Childbirth Summit: South Africa 2015, her experiences as the Zulu Doula, and her expertise as a town planner and the co-owner of Azania Strategic Urban & Rural Developers (Pty) Ltd in South Africa. I always find it intriguing to consider others’ processes and perspectives… Zee has much to share.

As we were awaiting our meals at a restaurant one day, we were discussing some of the experiences we had had together. We had visited some new mothers and their newborns the day before where out of the six mothers who had birthed, four had birthed by cesarean-sections, which they call caesars. Zee explained the high rates of c-sections at South Africa’s public hospitals and even higher rates at private hospitals.

Modern technological advancements in maternity care include c-sections for mothers that face medical challenges. Still, as with any major medical surgery, there are possible complications that have prompted the development of global initiatives to reduce c-section rates in an effort to improve maternal health.

At some point, Zee turned the video on me, asked me about my motivation for being a birth mentor and doula (among all of the other hats I wear), and pushed record.  Here was my impromptu response:



DOULA QUADS - Analysis (2)

Anyone who has been a doula for any amount of time knows that “DOULA” can mean different things to different people.

Most agree that a doula provides educational, emotional, and physical non-medical support for women during pregnancy, labor/birth and postpartum. There is also a general consensus that doulas help women feel EMPOWERED in birth. Still, the motivations behind why doulas commit to birth support and the ways that support is carried out are vast and diverse.

We draw our perspectives from our backgrounds which are made up of our “experiences, exposure, education and expertise.” That means that no two doulas are likely to perceive doula work in exactly the same way. We are each as unique as our fingerprints, with diverse beliefs about what is most important to focus on in our doula work.

After observing the differences in the ways that doulas refer to their work, I have noticed four primary paradigms that involve:

  • Provoking change through ACTIVISM in birth awareness and proactivity against unnecessary practices
  • Reviving the SISTERHOOD by sharing information, and passing along traditions, practices, and beliefs about birth
  • Supporting through SERVICE that meets a need that women have to be supported during childbirth.
  • Preserving the PROFESSION by emphasizing qualifications, accountability, and relationship to medical professionals

The image above is called DOULA QUADS and is used to consider each paradigm or model independently. The boxes suggest, as some doulas do, that doulas can only model a single behavior with regards to their doula work. Still, others resist the notion that they should be confined to any description, while acknowledging that their actions are most likely to mirror the needs of individuals they are supporting.

Doula Venn Diagram  - Gradient (2)The Venn diagram shows these perspectives in their complex realities. Seldom does any individual doula operate from a perspective that does not involve more than one single paradigm or model. While we may have a strong preference toward a single paradigm, there may be other areas we overlap into that create our individual and unique DOULA PERSPECTIVES.

I have become more and more intrigued about the motivations that people express for their doula work, but have found little research that investigates it. While there are sure to be other doula perspectives, these are very prominent in doula culture. I have decided study this area of DOULA PERSPECTIVES more closely and I would appreciate your input.

If you have 5 – 10 minutes, complete the DOULA PERSPECTIVES Survey and add your perspective about this topic. And if you have any additional thoughts about this topic or the survey, please share them in the comment section below.


This is a survey about DOULA PERSPECTIVES. It should take no longer than 5 – 10 minutes to complete. For additional background on this topic see What’s Your Doula Perspective. Please share this survey with other doulas so they can also share their views on this topic. THANKS!