origin of doula

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origin of doula....what is a doula, when did it start, what nationality, when was if first recognized

-- Linda Ernst (legs1944@yahoo.com), January 30, 2004


I seem to remember that they were first slaves(african) women who served as caretakers of their "masters" wives before and after pregnancy. It really is a derogatory term originally but I believe now we see Doula as a women (not a slave) any nationality who comforts and cares for the women during the birthing years.

-- Sara Duggan (mommie_care@yahoo.com), February 28, 2004.

The word is the feminine version of the old Greek word "doulos", which meant bondsman or slave, according to this site: http://www.kypros.org/cgi-bin/lexicon/ and others. (It must be from Ancient Greek, because the Greek people I've asked have never heard it.) I think the idea is that the mistress of the house would have turned to her favourite house servant to support her during birth.

In its modern usage, it was coined, afaik, by the folks who founded DONA 11 or 12 years ago. When I first started doing doula work in the late 80s, most doulas I knew didn't call themselves doulas. The word was around, but didn't have the same authority it does now. I called what I was doing "labour support". But y'know, "labour supporter" or "labour support person" are awkward terms. "Doula" is simpler, and nowadays many people know what it means.

You could check with DONA if you want to find out where they picked up the word.

-- Rean Cross (rean@lucina.ca), June 18, 2004.

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