A labor support doula is a trained professional specializing in childbirth, who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a laboring woman. The doula is involved prior to birth as a friend who can help the mother choose and visualize her birth preferences and help her plan. And the doula is involved after the birth to help ease her transition into motherhood.
A major part of labor support is the prenatal period. Here is the time to form a relationship and to inform the family about the upcoming time of becoming parents. The doula should be able to provide evidence based information. The best birth is an informed birth. The mother makes the decision, the doula does NOT. But it is important that the mother has as much information as possible. The best way that a doula can give the information needed is to have a relationship before the birth. She can help the mother create a birth plan. Once the doula is hired, prenatal meetings are scheduled to learn of the mother’s vision and preferences for her birth. The doula can be extremely instrumental in discussing the pros and cons of routine interventions. The doula will be taking notes so she can be familiar with the birth plain; the doula should be learning about her client. A doula should inform mother and her family about the postpartum period. The mother needs to know about what her body and her baby's body will be going though during the postpartum period so her and her family can prepare.
A doula should always have a reachable 24/7 phone number she will need to answer texts, and or phone calls.
The role of a labor support doula at a birth is to help the family have a beautiful birth. At the birth the doula should be able to “read” the situation and have many different tactics to offer the mother for pain relief. The doula should also know when to be quiet and when to speak up. One aspects of being a doula is learning how to best serve the mother during her labor, at births the doula will need to see what the mother needs. The doula will need to help the mother by nurturing the mother, staying by the mother’s side and caring for what’s needed. The doula should support and try to facilitate the birth the expectant mother wants, not the one the doula wants; it is not her place to put her own views in front of the client’s desires. This is a time that a family is being born. The doula needs to help the partner be as involved as he would like and offer guidance. Even for experienced parents, labor shifts the typical role partners take on in their relationship. For some, it is very challenging to watch a loved one navigate how to move through labor and be compromised from their usual capacities. A doula should be able to guide the partner as to how to best support the laboring mother. The doula may teach the partner how to massage the mother’s back or invite the partner to tell the mother a comforting, loving story the two of them share. The doula can also help guide the couple into a close, intimate space so the mother can feel relaxed. The doula needs to help navigate the ‘‘system”. One reason that a couple hires a doula is so that they can have experienced help when have a hospital birth. It is helpful for the doula to be familiar with the general way hospitals function. For example, a doula should understand the basic protocols that take place upon arrival at the hospital. A doula should know and understand what are the family’s rights. No matter where the mother is having the birth, the doula needs to help them have the best birth possible.
Doulas are not medically trained doulas should not be giving medical advice or performing medical tasks such as taking blood pressure, using a dopler to assess fetal heart rate, or internal exams. However, a seasoned doula is often capable of “guestimating” how dilated a laboring mother is by the emotional and physical signposts that are demonstrated. In terms of medical advice, a doula can offer the evidence based information but should NOT stand in the way of the medical staff. This can create negative discourse with the care provider.
A labor support doula’s role is to be a friend. She needs to have knowledge to give a mother who is preparing for birth. In the prenatal period the doula is getting to know the mother’s and partner’s envisioned birth. The doula’s job is to, if in her power, help those wishes to come true. At the birth the doula will be by the mother at times by nurturing, empowering, and helping the couple have a beautiful birth. This is the couple’s birth, not the doula’s. She will support, but not tell, the parents how they should have their baby. The role of a labor support doula is a beautiful role.