Birth Doulas support women and families in all kinds of situations, during different kinds of births and making a wide range of parenting choices. The services offered by a birth doula vary greatly according to the needs of the women, couple or family that she is working with.
Doulas do not take a clinical role but work alongside midwives and doctors. Birth doulas provide continuous support, for women and couples, through labour and birth and the immediate postnatal time. Birth doulas support women's choice of births, from planned caesarean birth or early epidural to home water birth.
A birth doula will usually meet with the mother-to-be (and her partner if applicable) at least twice, and be available for phone or email support as questions or concerns arise. They will have the opportunity to talk over any concerns, work out their birth preferences and get to know their doula.
A birth doula will then go ‘on call’ towards the end of pregnancy (typically around 38 weeks) and will then be available 24/7. The doula will usually be with the mother typically before they transfer to a place of birth (if planning a hospital or birth centre birth) or the midwives arrive (with a home birth), and stay on as a support.
During labour a doula provides constant emotional, practical and informational support to the mother, and partner if applicable, adapting to what is needed. The doula is able to offer help and suggestions on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. The doula can also act as the go-between between the parents and medical staff so that the labouring couple can focus purely on the mother and baby. If applicable, the doula can also encourage the partner to participate in the birth to a level at which they feel comfortable. The doula’s most important role is to provide nurturing, continuous support and reassurance for both parents.
The doula can stay with their client until after baby is born and the new family are settled and happy.
Birth doulas usually do at least one postnatal visit with the new parents to support them as they settle in life with a new baby, help with infant feeding as needed and allow them an opportunity to talk over the birth.