What doulas do during and after birth for you and your baby.
Having a doula is like having a personal trainer. You're familiar with the equipment at the gym, but a trainer gives you the support you need to finish your workout. Your OB-GYN is usually there in the active part of labor and, obviously, during the delivery, but a doula will come to your home when labor starts and support you there as long as possible. Studies show that the more time a woman stays at home, the less chance of interventions.
In the hospital, a doula will help foster communication between you and your OB-GYN, as well as other medical staff.
A good doula will know the hospital and its policies and can explain in simple terms which medical interventions are being used. She also helps you manage the emotional and physical pain of labor and delivery, and lends support to your partner; it can be difficult for a loved one to see you in pain.
Studies show that a doula's presence can shorten the length of labor and reduce the risk of a Cesarean section and the use of pain medication. An expectant mother should find out if her doctor or midwife supports doulas.
I think doulas are helpful to women in labor, and make my job as an OB-GYN easier. To find a doula in your area, visit DONA International (dona.org).