I get this question a lot and it deserves a lot of attention. You already
have your Ob/gyn, your husband is “all in” and even your mother and
mother in law have volunteered to help, so why a doula? I think the
best way to answer this question is to understand what a doula really
A doula is not a midwife nor does she provide medical care. What a
good doula does, however, is fill in all the gaps missing with the team
listed above. A doula is a birthing expert. She knows the mother-to-
be personally and somewhat intimately, since she has been a part of
the whole process, and is there to assist her and advise her about the
nuances of birthing and her rights as a patient.
Some mothers-to-be have very strong opinions about how they wish
to deliver their new born. They want the surroundings a certain way or
an all natural birth if possible. For others, it is their very first time and
have no idea what to expect. A doula supports her client, provides
timely information about what to expect next and is her constant
advocate. An expectant mother should be aware that her doctor is
there to deliver a healthy baby in a timely manner for all involved. He
or she is there for the delivery but cannot be there for the “process”
which can be 10, 20, or even 30 hours. They have hundreds of other
patients to treat. This is where the doula comes in. A good doula helps
the prospective mother through this process.
A doula is a powerful advocate for the mother. A doula will help focus
attention on what the patient wants, not just what the doctor or nurses
desire. Sometimes the medical team will suggest certain things like a
cesarean section because of protocol and convenience when the birth
mother really wants to go the natural path. A doula is an advocate for
the mother’s wishes. A doula will never, however,
dictate medical procedures or endanger the mother’s well being if the
medical team is adamant about the mother’s or infants condition or a
certain course of treatment.
A large part of a doula’s role is to provide education and comfort to the
expecting couple. When things get tense, sometimes all those things
you practiced and learned in your prenatal classes just go out the
window. Contractions are intense, the husband who was “all in”
before is now in free fall and the last person you want in the room
during this very private time is your mother or mother-in-law. A doula
is the trained professional that has walked many mothers through this
gauntlet and can hold hands, give advise on what is next, help with
labor positions to relieve pain and even massage backs when help is
But a doula’s role isn’t limited to the birthing process. She is there
before you go into labor and is there helping with postpartum issues.
She can advise on nursing procedures, postpartum pain, even be in
the home after the birth to help care for the mother and infant.
It would be nice if giving birth was the end of a mother’s needs.
Usually, this is just the beginning. Babies don’t come out with all skills
needed to thrive nor does mom get an instruction book on how to care
for her newborn. Things as basic as nursing can be a major problem;
and unfortunately, not a rare one but rather common. A doula can
help with this challenge also.
As you can see, the gamut of her skills is broad and invaluable. Pre
and postpartum education: delivery, nursing, hormonal changes,
adjusting to life with a new baby as well as the mothers emotional
health are all part of the role of a doula. Numerous studies have
statistically shown the hugely positive birthing experience with the help
of a professional doula.