A doula is a trained labor support person who provides a continuous presence throughout labor and birth.  She should meet with the couple prior to labor, spending time in their home, getting to know them and what is important to them.  She offers education and helps a couple know what to expect and how they can best prepare to have a positive birth experience.  My favorite aspect a doula provides is for the couple to be aware of all their options at all times.  Often couples will say of a previous birth experience without a doula, “We had no idea we could do that,” or “We never knew we could ask for that.”  It is also comforting to have someone present who has seen and done this before and can help moms and their partners to understand the process of labor and birth and be able to navigate its unpredictability.  While a doula cannot make medical decisions for the couple, she can be a gentle advocate for their desires while at a facility.  A familiar presence that offers positive encouragement and is confident and caring can be valuable to the laboring couple.  A doula is an important member of the birth team who should work in cooperation with nurses, midwives, and doctors who all share the common goal of having a healthy mom and a healthy baby.

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