The word doula comes from ancient Greek and refers to a woman trained and experienced in childbirth. The doulas role is to provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support and assistance for a woman and her partner during labor and birth. By "mothering the mother" the doula offers help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. She can assist the woman and her family in becoming informed about the course of her labor and their options.
Studies show that when doulas are present at birth, women have shorter labors, fewer medical interventions, fewer cesareans and healthier babies. The goal of the doula is to help the woman have a safe and satisfying birth as she defines it. When a doula is present, some woman feel less need for pain medications or may postpone them until later in labor. It is not the role of the doula to discourage the mother from her choices but to be informed about various options on a day that they will remember all of their lives.
The doula and the partner work together. The doula is not there to replace the partner in any manner but to work together to support the laboring woman. With a doula present, the pressure on the partner is decreased so that they can enjoy the experience of birth more. With the woman's partner and a doula at the birth a mother can have the best of both worlds: her partner's loving care and the doulas expertise and guidance.