The term doula is Greek for slave or servant. Doulas provide emotional and physical support during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. They call themselves many things including: Childbirth Assistant, Labor Support Professional, Birth Assistant, Birth Companion, etc.
A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.
A doula provides:
explanations of medical procedures
advice during pregnancy
exercise and physical suggestions to make pregnancy more comfortable
help with preparation of a birth plan
massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures
positioning suggestions during labor and birth
helps support the partner so that they can love and encourage the laboring woman
avoid unnecessary interventions
help with breastfeeding preparation and beginnings,
written record of the birth
and many other possibilities that vary from doula to doula
Why Use a Doula?
My husband (partner) is my left hand and my doula is my right.- from Doulas Making a Difference
Many studies have shown having a doula increases positive outcomes for labor and birth. When supported by a doula, women have continuous labor support, experience less pain and use less medications, are less likely to have a cesarean birth and have a more satisfying childbirth experience.
The father or partner, may be better able to provide continuous support but has little actual experience in dealing with the forces of labor. Even fathers who have had intensive preparation are often surprised at the amount of work involved (more than enough for two people). Even more important, many fathers experience the birth as an emotional journey of their own and find it hard to be objective in such a situation.
Will the Doula replace the father?
Some fathers or partners are concerned they may be sidelined or replaced by the Doula during labor. Although individual situations vary, and one should question a prospective doula about her philosophy, generally the answer to this question is no - she will not replace him. Studies have shown that fathers usually participate more actively during labor in the presence of a Doula than without one. A responsible Doula supports and encourages the father and enhances his support style rather than replaces him.