The short answer is a doula provides physical and emotional support to a mother during pregnancy, labour and beyond but I want to explain in a simple way.
On a much more personal level this is what I think a doula does:
A doula supports a mother and her tribe (partner and siblings) in the amazing transition from woman to mother, or mother of one to mother of many.
The doula's work with you is mostly during the months of pregnancy, getting to know you and your family, really listening to what you want and need so that this experience feels safe and positive to you. Every women and family are different and the support change varies as needed.
For example, In some families, we talk about the mother's wishes, what will allow her to feel safe and how the partner can support her in the best way, in some families we clear fears and beliefs that have been ingrained for years, In some families, the opinions of family, friends and cultures are released to allow a mother's true desire to be revealed...what is needed for you to arrive at your birth as confident as possible in all your strength and believing in your abilities.
Sometimes it is a work of understanding and insights and sometimes we need to sink deeper.
A doula brings a wealth of non-judgmental, evidence-based knowledge to a mother and her partner so that they can make informed decisions about their journey. A doula listens – really listens – to what is important to the mother and her family, respects their choices and helps them navigate all the options available to them.
A doula empowers a mother to be confident in her decisions about her body, and to be her own advocate. A doula holds the sacred space in your labour room and keeps the focus on the mother and baby.
A doula cannot guarantee a particular birth wish, but she is there for you every step of the way during this unique journey. A doula knows that the journey doesn’t end after you have announced your baby's arrival on social media; she supports you well after the flowers stop arriving.
A doula cares deeply.
A doula is at your labour and birth supporting you for the labour you want. Massaging you, bringing water and snacks, wiping your brow, moving your body, breathing with you.
Your doula will strengthen you to act from your instinct, ask questions about protocols and receive answers, will help you decide according to prior knowledge and if your desire, decisions from strength, she will strengthen your partner and allow him to experience this moment fully, to be present with you
A doula never replaces your partner. Instead she supports your partner during this magical time to be the ultimate birth partner.
Postnatal support includes breastfeeding support, housekeeping, delicious meals and treats, massage, someone to hold/burp/rock your baby to sleep while you shower, sleep. The list of support goes on and on.
Everyone deserves a doula.