The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth.
Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour
Provides advice during pregnancy
Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
Stays with the woman throughout the labour
Provides emotional support
Provides physical comfort measures, such as massage, position changes, breathing
Provides an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
Facilitates communication between the labouring woman, her partner, and her clinical care providers
Supports the partner so that they can love and encourage the labouring woman
Helps with initiation of breastfeeding
Provides a written record of the birth
Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labours are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
A doula does not speak for a couple, provide medical or clinical skills. They will help you get the information you need to make your own informed decisions. Doulas do not speak to medical staff regarding matters where health care decisions are being made. They can discuss your concerns with you and suggest options. The decisions are always in your hands.
Adapted from DONA International: http://www.dona.org/mothers/index.php
Choosing a Doula
It is very important that you and your partner are comfortable with the doula you choose and her role in your birth. Thus, it is important to meet your doula before labour to become acquainted. You and your doula will explore and discuss your priorities and any fears or concerns about labour and birth. This way, you can plan how you might best work together. If at this meeting, you or your partner decide that the interaction doesn't feel "quite right" to you, we encourage you to say so. We will happily refer you to a different doula with whom you may develop a better rapport.