This comes from an assignment one of my students turned in about the purpose of labor support. I felt it was a good description of the roles of doulas.
“The purpose of labor support is to provide mothers with a sense of security and safety while they focus on a peaceful and beautiful birth. Everything a mother thinks, feels, and does from the beginning of her labor until she is holding her baby has an impact on both mother and child, as well as partners and other family members. For this reason, labor support should be modified for each individual mother to provide her with unique and personalized care. As a labor support partner, I personally would want to provide care to the mother based on what she feels she needs. She knows her needs and her wants better than I do, and apart from giving more information, it is my role to respect her decisions. My role in childbirth is to advocate for the mother and her specific plans, and to comfort her if her plans have to change, or if in the moment she panics and wishes to change her original plan.
Many mothers describe their birthing experiences as being a process that was completely out of their hands. Some mothers feel pressured to make decisions based on the doctor or provider, and don’t have time to think about their options or research their choices before making them. My role in a mother’s pregnancy and childbirth is to ensure that every mother I would work with would have all the information she needs to make her childbirth experience as unique and special as she is. A mother should have a sense of control over herself and should be able to make educated decisions about what she feels is best for her child and herself. As a labor support partner, it would be my job to provide the specific attention to the mother’s desires and give her any and all information on the subject, before finally allowing her to make her own choices and encouraging her in those choices, whatever they are.
In a clinical or hospital setting, mediation may be necessary at times. Many healthcare providers do not understand the need for a doula and do not appreciate the work they do. This may be because in the past, providers have worked alongside doulas who have overstepped boundaries or who have appeared to have no medical reason to be present for a birth. This may also be because alongside all nursing and doctor duties and responsibilities, the reward of the work is providing loving and nurturing care to a mother and her baby. Some nurses or doctors may see the work of a doula as the person who handles the loving side of nursing and doctoring, without being involved in the painful aspects of being a nurse or doctor. It is my job to alleviate any tension within a clinical or hospital setting, and diffuse the tension that may be present. The nursing staff and doctors should know that I am there to provide care for the mother and to be a part of her team, just like they are, but I am not there to take away from their work or to get in the way of what they are trained to do. Through positive experiences with doulas, the line of work may become more popular and thus better understood.”