The birthing process can be transformative and enlightening. When we surround ourselves with loving people who support the innate birthing process, we have the greatest opportunity to experience childbirth as an empowering and positive event. Labor may still be difficult, but we may be surprised at our capacity for endurance and acceptance when the process takes place in a supportive environment.
A doula provides that constant support through the labor and delivery process. Nurses today are busier than ever with numerous patients a shift and a host of other responsibilities. When a nurse is with you, he or she is busy monitoring your labor and making notes in your chart, which doesn't allow much time for hands-on care.
Most women will tell you that they only saw their doctors briefly during labor, and while a midwife will often be present for longer periods during a woman's labor, she can get busy, too—especially if she is tending to more than one client.
"Working with a doula reminds me of why I became a midwife in the first place," says Ann Abbott, a certified nurse midwife in Waltham, Massachusetts. "Now, I have to be so focused on decision-making and the health of the baby that I don't always have the time to tend to the woman's emotional care. A doula focuses on providing the comforts that I am continually distracted from."
A doula typically stays with the couple throughout the labor and for the first hour or two after birth. During that time she usually witnesses more than one shift change of the medical staff. As everyone else comes and goes, the doula remains a constant presence for the couple. When the intensity of labor increases, the doula suggests new positions or activities to assist the progression of labor and help the mother feel as comfortable as possible.
When Mom is scared and feels she can't go on, a doula provides reassurance and instills confidence. She is also there to provide massage (to both Mom and Dad!), apply counter-pressure to Mom's back when needed, get food for the couple, stay with Mom while Dad goes for a walk ... and do anything else that supports the birth process.