Meet a doula

If you’re pregnant, or planning to be, you may have been asked at some point whether you’d consider using the services of a doula. But what is a doula, and what do they do? We asked Sherry Trowsse, a certified doula through Childbirth International, trained childbirth educator, breastfeeding counsellor and the owner of Ottawa Doula Services – which serves parents in Ottawa, Gatineau and the surrounding area – to explain a few things.

Sherry Trowesse. Photo Credit Michele Stiener Photography


Parenting Times: Is there a difference between a doula and a midwife?


Sherry Trowsse: As a doula, I am asked constantly “Is that like a midwife?” The simple answer is no! A midwife is a medical professional. They are experts in low-risk pregnancy, birth, the first little while after baby, and in newborn care. A midwife replaces your doctor for your prenatal care and the medical care of you and your baby for the first six weeks. Midwives also offer choice of birthplace and you can deliver in hospital, at home or at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre. 


A doula is a non-medical support person. A birth doula offers unbiased support during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. A postpartum doula offers support after birth and though the first year of baby’s life. A doula can offer support for all birth types and while you are under the care of an OBGYN, family doctor or midwife and can attend births at all hospitals, homebirths and birth centre births. Many doulas also have additional training in infant feeding, childbirth education, infant sleep and other related fields.


PT: So what exactly does a doula do?

ST: A doula supports expecting families through their pregnancy, births and early parenting. We help families feel confident by providing information, help with comfort measures and are there for you when you need a shoulder to cry on or a cheerleader to help you realize that you can do it! 

PT: In your opinion, does the general public understand what a doula does?

ST: No, many people don’t know what it is we do. 

PT: Who should seek out the services of a doula?

ST: Everyone. We are able to support anyone for any type of birth. Having a doula has been shown to help people have a more positive birth experience. 

PT: In which stage of pregnancy should a woman seek out the services of a doula?

ST: You can hire a doula at any point! The earlier you choose a doula, the more you can utilize her support in pregnancy. Some people only decide at the very end that they would like more support and that is definitely OK as well. 

PT: How should an expectant parent go about finding a doula? What qualifications should they be looking for? Is there an interview process? Should they ‘click’ with this person?

ST: Most of my clients have found me through Google. When you see a doula that you’d be interested in, getting in touch is the first step. Many families choose to meet in person but some decide over the phone that this is the doula for them. 

You want a doula that you feel comfortable with – she will be with you at your most intimate moment after all. For qualifications, you want someone who has at minimum completed her training. Being certified is a bonus as it means she has completed the steps set out by her training organization. 

PT: What can an expectant parent expect from a doula?

ST: Unbiased support. Different doulas will have different amount of prenatal and postpartum visits but she should be available to support you and make your concerns feel heard. 

PT: What is the biggest misconception about doulas?

ST: That we only support unmedicated births. 

PT: Why did you decide to go into this profession?

I personally saw the difference that having the additional support could make to helping me feel heard when my birth didn’t go the way I wanted. I wanted to be able to provide that feeling to others.  

PT: Would you say that your profession is growing?

ST: Absolutely! More and more people are using doulas and spreading the word. 

PT: What was the most memorable experience you have had as a doula?

ST: I had a client who was having a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean) and right after her baby was born, [she] looked up and me and said “I feel so empowered right now!” My heart exploded in that moment knowing that I had done my job well. 

PT: What is the best experience you’ve had as a doula?

ST: I love seeing the look on the partner’s face right after their baby is born. The look of pride and amazement while they look at their brand-new baby. That moment is absolutely magical. 

PT: What is the most rewarding thing about your profession?

ST: The most rewarding thing is always hearing parents say how they felt they had someone they count lean on during their birth. When a client sends me a note after birth saying how great they felt, it makes the hard nights and long hours worth it. 

PT: What is the most difficult thing about your profession?


ST: By far the hardest part is being on call. Knowing that at any moment my phone could ring and I need to drop everything and leave my family to support another. Missing birthdays and holidays, having to end all plans with “as long as I’m not at a birth.”