I know what a doula is, but what does she do?
Since I started training to become a doula, I am often asked “What is a doula?” and I find that question easy to answer. Doulas provide continuous emotional and physical (non-clinical) support to laboring women.
Got it. That is simple.
Next comes the more complicated question, “Yeah, but what does she do?”
“What about the doctor?”
“Is the doula a midwife?”
“What about the partner? Does he/she get left out?”
The reality is that a woman in labor is cared for by a variety of people, and each plays a specific role in the process. Ideally, all these people are working together to provide the supportive environment for the laboring woman. The following chart, adapted from Penny Simkin, explains the roles that each caregiver plays:
The doctor, midwife, and nurse concentrate on the clinical or medical aspects, while doulas and loved ones focus on the non-clinical and emotional aspects of care. Additionally, the partner/loved one is emotionally invested in the situation and may also need support and guidance at times throughout the labor.
Everyone, even the medical professionals contribute to the emotional well being of the laboring woman, but it is the doula who is defined by her support role that provides the most emotional care. With the presence of a doula, the family can be guaranteed continuous, unadulterated emotional support.
That is what a doula does.
Simkin, P. (2006). Labor Support by Doulas, Midwives, Nurses, Physicians, and Loved Ones. DONA Birth Doula Workshop Manual, DONA International: 1.4.