A midwife is responsible for the physical well being of mother and baby, and performs all medical exams and procedures. A doula is concerned with the mother's physical comfort, emotional well being, and making sure the mother has all of the information she needs to make informed decisions. Doulas do not perform exams or medical tasks of any kind.
What exactly does a doula do?
Each birth is different, because each mother's needs are different. I usually discuss my client's needs well before labor begins, including what their desires are for their birth and how they see me fitting into that. Some women want a lot of emotional support, and others feel they are well supported emotionally by their partners, so prefer mostly physical comfort measures and informational support. Some clients really enjoy help with visualization exercises and others love acupressure and massage during contractions. Doulas also help the labor progress by suggesting different positions for the mother, many of which relieve pressure. My comfort and familiarity with the birth process has gone a long way in helping past clients be more confident and comfortable during their labors and births.
Why do I need a doula if I have my partner?
While having friends and family present for birth support is ideal, unless that support person has had enough experience with birth to be comfortable and familiar with the process and is trained in comfort techniques, depending on only them for your physical and emotional support will not provide you with the same benefits as a birth doula. In an ideal birth, the doula will work side by side with the birth partner. In my experience, the partners of the women I have worked with have benefited from my presence because I have helped them more effectively support the mother physically or allowed them to focus more on emotional support while I assist with comfort measures such as counter pressure and massage. In some cases, the partner may be feeling nervous about being present and perhaps doesn't know how to fit in. I can help integrate the birth partner and other friends and family present so that they feel more confident and helpful.
Why do I need a doula if I have a nurse/midwife?
Nurses and midwives in a hospital setting have other clients to attend to, so can not be there for you with out interruption. Aside from this, a nurse or a midwife must perform exams and other medical tasks that make them unable to focus on the emotional and physical comfort of their clients.
What if I am planning a medicated birth?
As a doula, I support you in your decisions. If you have any questions I am able to direct you to the pertinent information, but I do not push my own agenda or beliefs on anyone. A birth doula is just as valuable at a medicated birth as she is at an unmedicated birth.