We can answer this question more accurately if change it to ‘who’ is a doula because what doulas do isn’t as important as the kind of people they are. Essentially they are people who support unconditionally.
A doula is someone who chooses to get to know and believe in the power that’s in each person to know what’s the best birth for them and how to follow their instincts as new parents. Doulas are experts in encouraging and supporting families so that they can enjoy the time of pregnancy birth and early baby days.
Every doula is different; each has knowledge of different things about pregnancy birth and babies but each is the same because they all come with totally unconditional support for every family they work with.
Finding the right person to provide you with that unconditional practical and emotional support is your first step to realising the power in you to enjoy all that pregnancy birth and new parenthood has to offer. Your doula won’t ever give advice but they will get you the information you want and support you in whatever decision you make. Your doula is without any agenda except to support you.
Practically speaking a birth doula helps the family prepare for the birth and then supports the birthing person and birth partner during the labour and delivery.
A postnatal doula supports the family practically and emotionally in the first weeks after the baby is born.
Doulas are not medical professionals; they do not do the job of you midwife, doctor or health visitor and they can not provide medical advice.
If that all sounds lovely but you’re not sure what the practical benefits would be here’s some of the measurable benefits that the kind of support doulas offer provides:
“Women who received continuous labour support may be:
- more likely to give birth ‘spontaneously’, i.e. give birth vaginally with neither ventouse nor forceps nor caesarean.
- less likely to use pain medications or to have a caesarean birth.
- more likely to be satisfied and have shorter labours.
- Postpartum depression could be lower in women who were supported in labour.
- The babies of women who received continuous support may be less likely to have low five-minute Apgar scores (the score used when babies’ health and well-being are assessed at birth and shortly afterwards).
Continuous support in labour may improve a number of outcomes for both mother and baby, and no adverse outcomes have been identified. Continuous support from a person who is present solely to provide support, is not a member of the woman’s own network, is experienced in providing labour support, and has at least a modest amount of training (such as a doula), appears beneficial.”