Coming from the Greek word meaning “servant,” a doula is just that- a servant to expectant mothers. Doulas serve families as they welcome new babies into their lives. During labor, this could be physical, emotional, informational, or whatever other type of support a mother may need. A doula’s main objective is to provide this constant support to a woman during labor, birth, and immediately postpartum. A doula will provide information on comfort measures, position changes, the physical and emotional stages of labor, and medical procedures that are suggested. She is a subjective presence in the room with experience helping women labor and deliver babies.
A doula enhances the support role of a spouse or partner by suggesting ways to help comfort the mother as much as possible. In no way does the doula take their place. In fact, the presence of a doula can help ensure that the partner plays an active role in labor and provides appropriate emotional and physical support to the laboring woman.
Research shows that the presence of a doula shows a reduced rate in interventions, including the use of Pitocin, pain medication, forceps and vacuum deliveries, episiotomies, and cesarean sections. There is also research showing that the presence of a doula results in shorter labors. Mothers who have the support of a doula often report feeling better about their birth experience and more confident in their bodies’ abilities. Research shows greater success in breastfeeding in groups of mothers who use doulas, as well as fewer postpartum depression incidences.
It is important to know that a doula does not replace a doctor or midwife. Doulas are not trained to give vaginal exams or check baby’s heart rate. Doulas will not speak to the doctor for you or make medical decisions on your behalf. A doula will inform you of benefits and risks and help you remember your birth plan, but cannot voice these decisions for you in your birthplace.