Women had for centuries had helpmates to assist them during their labors and/or pregnancies. Generally it was their mother/mother-in-law, a sister, an aunt or local neighborhood elder or lay midwife. With the advance in medical interventions, it seemed that childbirth become more a medical enclave than a celebration of family and friends as it was in the past. Those who had previously been the major contributors to the prenatal, labor and post natal care were relegated to be more witnesses than active participants.
Women's wishes also as to what their birth experiences should be were also more likely than not to be ignored or negated in major ways. Now the tide is turning.
Today's health consumers including pregnant women and their spouses/partners are now demanding more as to what the birth experience can be and will be. Intregal to this is the doula who as noted above is the woman's servant. She is a non medical person who assists the laboring woman physically, emotionally and mentally. She is an enabler as she does not make decisions for her client nor does she speak for her but she does provide education/information and encourages her to speak up for herself. One way she helps her also to process what her individual needs are is to help her do a birth plan. This plan delineates what she wants and does not want to occur during the childbirth experience. Of course, she must present it to the medical entity she goes to.
Thus, the doula does help the mother. She also helps the dad/partner as she can relieve him when he is tired and encourage him when he is tired. She can do this for any participating family member. And her assist and calm reassurance to all can create a more calm birth experience which can be an added assist to the medical staff.
Virgnia Fleischman I am a RN with almost 17 years of experience as a RN (as of June 07). I am a newly trained doula who is also a mother of four and grandmother of one who has witnessed how doulas help.