The Professional Doula: Dress the Part

Calling all doulas- aspiring and experienced alike! Welcome to Part 1 of a short series on developing professionally as a birth doula. Come back in the following weeks to read more on how to better serve the mother, work with care providers, and develop a good rapport while you’re at it.

Part 1 of our series deals with how you should dress when you attend a birth. I’ll be the first to tell you that appearance isn’t everything, but it certainly can either help you or do a great deal of damage to your professional image.

Remember that every single job, whether it’s in a kitchen or a business office, requires its employees to dress in a certain way. Even if you have a strong sense of fashion, work may not be the time to express it fully. As self-employed doulas, we don’t have any boss to give us hints on our clothing, but that doesn’t mean you should just wear whatever you want. Let’s start with a couple of big no-no’s.


Into natural birth, real food, and “green” living? Me too. But please make sure your apparel doesn’t reflect your inner hippie too much. As much as I resent it, showing up to a birth with long unkempt hair and a t-shirt with a “believe in birth” slogan will earn you nothing but disrespect and being talked about at the nurses’ station.


On the other hand, you probably don’t want to arrive at a birth in a blouse and business suit. You will be doing hard, sweaty work that often goes for odd and long hours. So don’t try to impress anybody too much with fancy clothes. Now is not the time, and the staff understands that.

When you attend a birth, do not:

  • Wear ripped up, old, or torn clothes.
  • Wear heels or uncomfortably dressy clothing
  • Wear a dress or skirt. This will be rather difficult to work in.
  • Show cleavage.
  • Wear t-shirts or sloppy jeans.
  • Wear anything that would confuse you with staff- scrubs, etc. You are not medical and should not give that impression.

Please do:

  • Wear well-kept & neat clothing.
  • Bring extra hair ties. It’s nice to be able to get it back out of your face when you need to.
  • Wear shoes that stay comfortable for hours.
  • Bring a toothbrush and a full change of clothes. Face wash is always nice too. If it’s a long birth, you may need to freshen up at some point.

While there is no strict dress code for doulas, I find it best to maintain a well-kempt, clean & comfortable appearance. Usually for me this means comfortable dress slacks on bottom (easy to do when they have a maternity top!), or a pair of “dressy” black yoga-style pants. I have been known to wear nice jeans or khakis when I’m in a rush to get to a birth, but so far I haven’t had any complaints with that. On top, I usually wear a sweater, tunic, or casual blouse that will hold up to long hours of wear. Again, look nice, but stay comfortable.

Fellow doulas, let me hear from you! What do you wear? If you’re a member on hospital staff, what do you usually see doulas wearing to a birth?

Photo Credits: Mother Earth Photo

Businesswoman in Conference Room



3 responses to this post.

  1. I wear nice khaki pants that have a small amount of stretch in them, enough to make them comfy, much not so much that they look sloppy. I always dress in layers on top, a comfortable thin shirt and a light hooded sweater with pockets. And of course, comfortable shoes! I have a pair of brown suede Teva shoes that look dressy but feel like sneakers.


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