The concept of a doula definitely isn't new. The word "doula" comes from a Greek work meaning a female servant or slave. For centuries, many women have given birth in the comfort of their own home with support and encouragement from other women. Midwives attended most births. As births in the U.S. began to move to the hospitals in the early 1900's, the role of women supporting the mother decreased. Eventually husbands weren't even allowed to be in the room! Once again, people are realizing the value of having continuous labor support from a woman who is knowledgeable about birth. Today there are many wonderful, caring doctors and nurses. However, many times they can not offer the continuous support that a doula can, because they are caring for multiple patients during your labor. As a doula, I have no clinical responsibilities- I never have to lessen my support role to assess or treat you.
As a doula, I am trained to give a woman physical, emotional, and informational support. Unless you request some time alone, I won't leave you during labor expect for a few minutes for bathroom breaks, etc. I can take walks with you, help you breathe through contractions, suggest position changes, rub your aching back, hands, or feet, apply counter pressure, use hot/cold packs to provide relief, offer other strategies to cope with the pain, or simply assist your husband in doing all these things! I offer hands-on support, hugs, smiles, love, and lots of encouraging words. I can also help you get information to enable you to feel comfortable making decisions about suggested procedures. I will try to help you have the birth you desire, as much as possible. Sometimes labor has surprises, and if there must be a departure from your birth plan, I can help you make adjustments and support you in your decisions. As a doula, I will be working for you- not for the hospital.
Advocacy between staff or family/friends is another benefit of a doula. While I won't make medical decisions, I can assist you in getting information and in having your questions answered so that you can make informed choices. By being familiar with your birth plan/desires, if there is a non-necessary departure from your plan, I can gently remind you of that.
My role is strictly non medical and I do not perform any clinical tasks such as blood pressure checks, vaginal exams, or fetal heart checks.