A doula is a trained professional that is neither an OB/GYN or a midwife. A doula does not administer medical care whatsoever. She is however an integral part of the birthing team. Your doula is with you before the birth, during the birth and even postpartum. She is the confidant at your side for the whole process.
Your OB/GYN is your doctor and will deliver the baby. But you have to remember, he or she has hundreds of other patients at any one time. The staff of your obstetrics doctor’s job is to make him or her the most efficient they can be. This means getting your doctor to the hospital on time for the birth but not before. Waiting around for the mother to fully efface and dilate would be a waste of their valuable time. So while your doctor’s role is vital, he or she is not your birthing coach, your hospital intermediary or your nursing/postpartum helper. That is the role of the doula.
A doula never interferes with medical treatment but can help you communicate to the doctor and hospital your desires. It is easy to get ignored in a busy hospital with numerous parts all going at the same time. A doula can help you find your strong voice for your wishes and desires.
A doula can be the second voice that the doctor and hospital hears asking for everyone to slow things down and respect the mother’s wishes. A doula will not interfere with your doctor or nurse’s medical advice nor interject herself or her opinions into the process but she will make sure that you, the mother, get a strong voice into treatment plan. After all, it is your baby and your treatment and this should be respected and followed.
Finally, a doula is there for you after the birth also. She can be a wonderful nursing coach (since this can often be a rocky time for mom and infant), help with ways to lessen postpartum pain, and even help with other children (including dad) if your newborn has young siblings.
Numerous studies have been done on the positive roles a doula can play during and after the pregnancy. Patient satisfaction surveys have shown huge increases when a doula is there for you.