What is a Doula and How Can You Find One?

January 22, 2016 By Jennifer Walker and Mari Gordon 0 Comments

Giving birth is life-changing enough, but having your baby in a new country can bring additional challenges. Hiring a doula is a great way to get support before, during, and after the birth. Amsterdam doulas Mari Gordon and Jennifer Walker explain what a doula does and how they can help you. 

What is a Doula?

One-part fairy, one-part jack of all trades, a doula is an experienced professionally trained woman who provides emotional support, physical comfort, and informational resources, during and after childbirth for a woman and her partner.

This support can take on many forms and is different for each client. A doula will tailor the support she provides according to the needs of the woman or couple. Ultimately, the doula’s role is to empower you (and your partner) to take an active role in your birth.

Why have a Doula?

Have you recently relocated to the Netherlands and found yourself pregnant?

Do you feel that you need a guide as you navigate the Dutch maternity system?

Did you previously have a difficult or traumatic birth, and would like extra support this time around?

Would you like support in your native language? Do you feel that you and your partner could benefit from personalized birth preparation?

Does it feel reassuring to know that there will be someone with you from the moment that you need them until your baby is born?

Are you a single and expecting and you want a birth companion that you can count on?

Do you have fears and anxieties related to giving birth?

If you answered yes, to one or more of these questions, then you should consider hiring a doula. Having an experienced support person to guide you during your pregnancy and offer continuous physical and emotional support during labour can be extremely beneficial. Studies have shown that it reduces complications, interventions, the length of labour, the need for pain medication and increases mother’s satisfaction and the baby’s APGAR score!

What does a Doula do Exactly?

A doula will meet with you and your partner during your pregnancy to discuss any wishes, expectations, and needs that you may have with regards to your birth. During labor, she will provide continuous support until a few hours after the baby is born. This support may be:

Emotional Support – encouragement, reassurance, continuous presence.

Practical Support – practical knowledge and information on the Dutch healthcare system, facilitating effective communication with your medical caregivers.

Physical Support – comfort measures, positioning, massage, relaxation and other non-medical pain relief measures

Partner Support – help your partner feel confident in supporting you, encouragement, reassurance.

Just to be clear, there are a few things a doula doesn’t do. A doula does not let her personal views get in the way of supporting you (she will respect what YOU want for your birth). She is not a nurse or midwife, so she provides only non-medical support to her clients. A doula’s support compliments, but does not replace, the care of your doctor, midwife, or nurses.

Choosing a Doula

The most important thing to consider when choosing a doula, is do you feel comfortable with her? Are her particular experiences and skill set a good match for the birth that you envision? Is this the woman that you want to stand beside you during this key life event? How to find your doula?

In Amsterdam there are a wealth of talented doulas from every walk of life, hailing from both the Netherlands and abroad.

There are currently two training programs that train and certify doulas in the Netherlands: Opleiding tot Doula in Utrecht and JJ Doula Training here in Amsterdam.

You will also find doulas who have certified via international programs such as DONA International  or Childbirth International.

De Nederlandse Beroepsvereniging voor Doula's is the Dutch professional association of doulas. The NBvD site has a directory for doulas who are members of the association.

For a list of doulas recommended by the Amsterdam Mamas community, take a look at our directory.


Mari Gordon is a US native who has been living in the Netherlands for the past 18 years. Having done just about everything under the sun, she finally decided to answer a calling and completed her doula training in 2012 in Amsterdam with JJ Doula Training. She feels especially passionate about childbirth education and breastfeeding support.

Jennifer Walker Jennifer is a Canadian, who has been living in Amsterdam for the past 16 years. Jennifer is one of the most experienced doulas in the Netherlands, and co-founder of JJ Doula Training. She is an Approved Spinning Babies Trainers training midwives, doctors, childbirth educators and doulas locally and internationally. 


photo credit: Flickr

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