The term "doula" comes from ancient Greek, meaning "a woman who serves". The role of a birth doula is to support the birthing person and birth partner during pregnancy, labor, birth and the immediate postpartum period . A birth doula provides physical comfort measures and suggestions to ease discomfort. Doulas are useful for an unmedicated birth, as well as epidural, medicated, and even cesareans. Doulas work in various settings (hospital, home, and birthing center). A birth doula supports the birthing person and partner in a manner that is best for them. The doula does not have an agenda.
So, is a doula the same as a midwife? No. A doula does not provide medical care. The doula does not do vaginal exams, cervical checks, blood pressure or make any medical decisions. A doula does provide continuous support to the client while a midwife or OB may have an intermittent presence. The L&D nurses may help the laboring person during the hospital stay, but she will usually have several clients and cannot stay continuously. The doula is able to provide information and suggestions on pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding. Doulas may help facilitate a conversation between client and care provider. The birth doula works with your care provider on your birth team.
A doula is a valuable addition to the birthing experience. Still unsure? Read "The Evidence for Doulas" from Evidenced Based Birth here.
There are many types of doulas as well! I’m a birth and postpartum doula, meaning I work with clients during the pre and the post natal period. A postpartum doula is different than a nanny or a baby nurse as our focus is to care for the birthing person and new family. The role is a bit more flexible and can fit a new family’s needs in many ways. From education of newborn care, some newborn care, assistance with postpartum healing, light meal prep, organization, referrals to other professionals, lactation support and so much more!