Doulas bake pies. (What doulas do, what doulas don't do.)
Since doulas are relatively new on the birth scene (at least named as such, women helping women give birth is as old as time), many people don't know what doulas do at a birth and what is outside their scope. I've come up with a simple acronym to describe what doulas do. (I only arranged the letters, all the terms have originated from other people.)
What does this mean in practical terms? Physical support might involve counterpressure or massage, assistance with positioning, cold or heat therapy, reminders to take bathroom breaks, or offering something to drink. It does not include anything that would be considered clinical care such as vaginal exams, fetal heart rate monitoring, blood pressure monitoring, or anything else described as monitoring. Informational support includes offering a thorough review of the pros and cons of obstetrical procedures when needed. Additionally, most doulas spend time before the birth helping their clients prepare a plan to give themselves the best odds of having a safe, and satisfying, birth. Doulas never make decisions for their clients. Although we all come to the table with personal opinions, as doulas, we set that aside because our primary role is helping moms and dads have their birth the way they want it. Finally, emotional support is so important during birth. Moms going through the experience of birth find themselves very vulnerable. They need someone to tell them that they're okay, and that they can do it. Dads are often too overwhelmed themselves to offer the confident reassurance that moms need. This is where doulas often step in, bringing a calming presence to the often chaotic labor room.
Something many people wonder is whether a doula will stand up for them, and make sure their wishes for the birth are carried out. While some doulas do this for their clients, most doulas don't usually step into this role. Instead, we empower moms and dads to speak up themselves, perhaps reminding them that they always have the option of both informed consent and refusal. In today's birthing world, so often the power is taken away from parents; we want to see it returned where it belongs--not to doulas, but to the two individuals who will always have the baby's best interest at heart, that baby's own mommy and daddy.