A doula supports a woman and her partner/family through pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period. A doula can help in one or more parts of the pregnancy/labour/birth process. The duties of a doula will vary according to what each mother/family need or want, and what the doula offers. A birth doula does not take the place of the birth partner – she can be as much a support for the partner as for the mum-to-be. A postnatal doula supports you as you recover from birth and find your way as parents. Whether this is your first child, or you have one or more children at home already, a doula can help ease the way for the entire family.
Many people and organizations say that doulas “mother the mother”. A doula is not a medical professional – a doula provides support to the birthing mother and her partner(s). A birth doula will be an emotional and physical support during labour. A postnatal doula will help to look after you, so that you can look after your new baby.
Women in labour used to have the support from the women in their community or family, now sometimes first time parents feel bewildered or alone. Historically, and still in some cultures, women have had a “lying-in” period, or confinement, after birth where they are expected to stay in bed for anywhere from a week up to 44 days, and have family look after them while they look after their newborn. Today it sometimes feels like women are just supposed to know what to do immediately and get on with it like birth is not a big deal. Well, it IS a big deal! Everyone is better off with some support. It is wonderful if you have people around you who are able to do this. With a doula, you choose the level of support you want and for what period of time.