A doula is someone who provides non-clinical support and care to a woman (and her partner) during childbirth and the postpartum period.
Women have complex needs during childbirth. In addition to the safety of modern obstetrical care, and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences. To this end, a doula works with a woman and her family, physicians, midwives and nurses with an aim to enhance communication and understanding.
With a Doula present, the pressure on the partner is also decreased, allowing participation at an optimum comfort level and increasing the enjoyment of the birth of the baby. Ideally, the Doula and the partner make the perfect support team for the woman, complementing each other's strengths.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier, they breastfeed more easily with less need for technical aid and there is greater maternal satisfaction.
Doulas help foster a more relaxed postpartum environment as well, and enhance early mother-infant relationships, breastfeeding and family adjustments.