Increasingly, expectant families are choosing to use the services of a doula to complement the care provided by a doctor or registered midwife. Doulas Sarah Baughman and Jill Ritchie reflect on their philosophies and explain the value they offer their clients.

What is a doula?

Doulas are trained professionals who provide physical and emotional non-clinical support and care to expectant families, not only before, during and after childbirth, but across the full spectrum of their reproductive choices. The role of a doula involves advocacy, education, counselling, negotiation and, most of all, honouring expectant families by providing continuous support.

Sarah Baughman

For me, working as a doula means offering a nurturing kind of support to birthing individuals. I foster a sense of maximum self-determination by helping clients access the tools they need to make decisions that they are comfortable with during the perinatal period. I offer gentle guidance, knowing when to remain quiet and offer my presence as enough. I understand the physiology of birth and know when to offer specific comfort measures, both physically and emotionally. I also offer support for the partner, if applicable, to a level that they are comfortable with. I get to know my clients by forming relationships with them. I do more listening than talking. Working as a doula includes maintaining good, professional relationships with midwives, nurses and doctors in order to create a positive birthing environment. It means working well in a team, cooperating with, listening to and supporting colleagues. It means being reliable, responsive and offering continuous care. As a doula, I support a birthing person’s right to their full bodily autonomy at all times and passionately support all pregnancy outcomes across the spectrum, from live birth to abortion to relinquishment to apprehension. These are some of the philosophies that not only resonate with me, but ones that I have had the privilege of being able to put into practice doing this work.

Jill Ritchie

Twenty-three years ago, while lying on my back enduring a complicated delivery, I felt a gentle touch and heard the reassuring words from the labour room nurse: “I am here with you, hold my hand”. To this day, I remember vividly that moment and feeling. That experience triggered my life’s path to become a doula. My life as a doula has been one of reflection, guidance, giving, receiving, loving and understanding while meeting people at a poignant time in their journey through life. It is about getting in touch with my own opinions and biases while I share space with each person’s individuality.

My career as a doula has evolved from one birth experience to the next. It is always challenging to describe one’s role as a doula because each person’s experiences are so unique. For me, the best way to describe my career as a doula is to say I support ... through pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenting.

Where can I find a doula?

  • Your healthcare provider
  • Local pregnancy outreach program
  • Association of Ontario Doulas (ontariodoulas.org)
  • Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (cappa.net)
  • DONA International (dona.org)

Sarah Baughman and Jill Ritchie

About the Expert

Sarah Baughman (left) has worked as a Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula for seven years. With a passion for community based doula work, she is a clinical instructor in Fanshawe’s Doula Studies program.

Jill Ritchie (right) has been a Certified Birthand Postpartum Doula for 17 years, having opened London’s first Doula Centre in 2005. A part of the development team for Fanshawe’s Doula Studies program since 2015, she now provides clinical instruction inthe program.


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