A labor doula or birth doula is someone who provides non-medical and non-midwifery support (physical and emotional) to a woman leading up to and during her labor and delivery.
A labor doula may attend a woman having a home birth or a woman laboring at home before transporting to a hospital or a birth center, where she will continue her support. They do not perform clinical duties such as heart rate checks or vaginal exams, or give medical advice. Labor doulas rely on techniques like massage and position changes to help women through labor. Many offer phone and email support as well as prenatal and postpartum visits the ensure the mother is informed and supported. The terms of a labor/birth doula's responsibilities are decided between the doula and the family.
Doulas serve as advocates of their client's wishes and may communicate with medical staff to help the client make informed decisions. The doula is also an ally for the father or partner, who may have little experience with the labor process. Many fathers and partners experience birth as an emotional journey and find it hard to be objective. A responsibility doula supports and encourages the father or partner in their support style rather than replacing them.