For thousands of years, women have been assisting women in the childbirth process. A doula is a helper, a servant. She 'mothers the mother' - offering comfort, support, advocacy, and encouragement throughout labor and birth, as well as before and after. She supports both parents in having a positive and memorable birth experience. She works only for you.
Studies* have shown that laboring women benefit from having the continuous support of a doula, whose only role is to provide it. Positive results include shorter labors, less need for medication to speed up labor, fewer requests for pain medications, fewer interventions such as forceps or vacuum extraction, and a lower Cesarean rate.
What exactly does a doula do?
This will vary with every birth. For example, one mother may need to be left completely alone at certain times during labor. Another mom may need continuous eye contact to stay focused. Most women need to be gently reminded of and aided in the comfort and relaxation tools she learned during pregnancy -- changing positions, walking, getting in the bath or shower. The one consistent thing is that your doula will be there for you and your partner the whole time, and will adjust and be sensitive to what you both need, whatever the situation.
Why would I need a doula when my husband/partner is going to be there to support me?
Certainly, your partner knows you better than anyone else. However, there is a great benefit to both parents to have someone there throughout your labor with instinct, experience and objectivity to give support, reassurance and guidance. In suggesting the support of a doula, the intent is not to diminish the father's role but to enhance it, to free him up to stand by the mother. Ideally, the partner and the doula working together create the ultimate support team.
How does a doula differ from a midwife, or a Labor & Delivery nurse?
A doula is trained to provide non-medical, emotional and informational support to you and your partner. She does not offer medical advice, or perform clinical tasks such as taking your blood pressure, checking cervical dilation or fetal heart tones. All these are part of the care you will receive from the medical staff.
I might be induced, want an epidural, or even need a Cesarean Section. Do I still need a doula?
No matter what happens, it can be very beneficial to have an experienced, professional person with you whose primary task is to provide you with information, encouragement and support.