I moved to Hyderabad in 2011 just after doing my childbirth educator training in Brazil. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to attend the doula training there before I left, so I tried looking for a course in India, but found nothing. I was told by an independent midwife that there was no market for doulas in Hyderabad, but I never gave up on the idea. 

Increasing Awareness of Doula Support in India

Finally in 2014, I went to Brazil and did my doula training. After coming back to India I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find work as a doula, but to my surprise, I became very busy with births.

My first births as doula happened in a multi-speciality hospital and in an upmarket maternity hospital where women are assisted only by doctors.  I used to work with an OB who was supportive of natural birth, but from the time of admission into the hospital up until the baby was about to be born, women were attended by nurses and the doctor on call. I used to return home very frustrated about the fact that the nurses had very little knowledge about the natural process of labor and no idea at all about the meaning of gentle birth.


The positive impact of the midwifery model of care

Finally, I was hired by a woman who gave birth in a maternity hospital where midwives attend births. I was very excited! My client’s labor was fast and smooth without interventions, even though it was not a typical low-risk pregnancy.  

After that, I attended several births in that hospital and really spent time working alongside midwives. The great thing is that they see me as somebody who is there to make their job easier. The midwives can concentrate on the technical part of the delivery knowing that I’m there to provide emotional and physical support to the mother. I feel that they really appreciate my work.

Another really important point about having my clients under the care of a midwife is that I have no fear that somebody will disturb the natural process of labor. In some hospitals, I’ve observed nurses and doctors coming to the room all the time, keeping bright lights on and carrying out procedures such as rupture of membranes or episiotomies without waiti ng for informed consent from the birthing woman.

The midwifery model of care supports being active and having privacy during labor. These factors are really important to women and definitely have a positive impact on labor progress.

Doula support leads to gentle birth experiences for mothers and babies

As long as a mother and baby are doing fine and it’s a low-risk pregnancy, the midwives are independent and provide all of the care during the labor and birth, including water birth. There are doctors on call to support the midwives in case of any emergency.

Women in India used to be a bit scared of midwives attending their births, but now many women are beginning to understand that midwives are trained to attend low-risk births and a doctor should be called only if required.

Midwives and doulas make an awesome team! We give technical, emotional and physical support to women during childbirth, leading to safe and gentle birth experiences for mothers and babies.

A doula also offers informational support during pregnancy and birth, empowering women to communicate their needs in order to achieve a positive birth experience. In India, women don’t feel comfortable asking questions and expressing their needs to doctors, but slowly I can see this changing as I now observe clients discussing their birth preferences with care providers.

We urgently need more midwives and doulas all over India!  As somebody once said “If you want to change the world, start with the way people are born.”

Learn more about the midwifery model of care and how it could impact neonatal and maternal mortality rates in India? 


Millena Sehgal is a doula, childbirth educator, prenatal yoga instructor, lactation counsellor and a mother of two. She has been working as a doula in Hyderabad for the past four years. Millena is also the Co-founder of Birth School India, an initiative promoting birth related courses in India. The idea is to grow the number of doulas and other birth professionals in our country.

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