The role of a doula is to provide comfort to a woman and support to a couple especially during labor, but also throughout pregnancy and into the post partum period. The way in which each doula supports a family will differ according to the doula and to the family. At the most basic level, a doula does whatever a couple needs during their labor and birth.
I have been practicing as a doula since April 2010, and I love participating with couples in their pregnancy, labor, birth and early post partum days. I place a high value on establishing a trusting relationship with my clients because I believe a woman’s trust in her birth team is of the utmost importance to a good birth experience. As soon as a client hires me, I work to meet with her as often as possible until her birth.
As a doula I also strongly support a woman’s informed decision making, emphasis on informed. I strongly encourage my clients to take a comprehensive childbirth class either from me or from another teacher. I will also recommend readings and videos to help prepare couples for birth and help them become informed.
When working as a doula I prefer to meet my clients at their own home once labor has begun so I can provide helpful input when they decide to travel to their birth place, whether hospital or birth center, and so I can arrive with them. In the case of a home birth, I will usually arrive before the midwives to support a couple in early and active labor as they request. My experience attending births allows me to have a good idea of where a woman is in her labor, and I can usually accurately assess how far along the labor has progressed.
As a doula I provide a lot of physical support such as massage, walking, and help in changing position. In the past I have acted as a leaning post for mothers, even (on one occasion) catching them when they faint! I’m an errand runner: fetching nurses, dinner, hot packs, tea, coffee, water, ice cubes, and relatives.
Most often my job as a doula is simply to encourage. Most mothers find it helpful to have an experienced woman present to reassure them that what they are going through is normal and they will get through it. Partners are often very comforted by this same presence and knowledge. Sometimes my job is to be there to make sure a couple have space and time to labor by leaving them alone. I never replace the mother’s partner, but I work to support and compliment the partner in their own individual style of support.
Different women want different things from their doula. Whether you’re looking for specific experience, certification, training, or knowledge, your doula should be someone you click with and are comfortable with.