Any woman who is anxious or particularly uneasy about being able to manage her full term pregnancy, the child birth process or the post partum period; or even a woman who requires support and help during that time, should probably think of a doula to help her through this most life changing of events.
A doula is a non medical assistant, who helps in a variety of different ways, based on her particular form of training.
Before the birth: A doula can assist an expectant mother by taking care of a number of things such as providing emotional support, suggesting ways of relaxation and offering massage[prenatal massage] etc.
A doula could help with other children in the house and would also be able to drive one to the hospital upon the onset of labor, depending upon the terms and conditions of service discussed.
During birth: Typically a labor or birth doula would look after the physical as well as emotional needs of a birthing mother by joining her at the home or hospital some hours before and then remaining with the mother until some hours after the actual delivery.
The doula is able to offer comfort and a sense of security with the amount of personal experience that she would be able to bring along with herself.
Also since a doula would be well acquainted with the birth plan of the mother, she would be in a position to make sure that it is followed by requisite communication with the attendant medical staff.
After birth: A doula makes a lot of sense for those women in particular who live alone and would struggle to cope in the time immediately following the birth of the child. They would assist with breastfeeding, aid in recovery and offer valuable advice. It could be possible that she assists with some of the housework or cooking for the family as well.
A doula would be very helpful in assisting a mother who is undergoing postpartum depression and could help the mother and others in the family cope. A doula could also help the father or partner define their role and offer valuable advice about child rearing to them.
Though certification is not necessary for a doula to offer her services, it is possible to obtain appropriate certification from certain specific organizations.
There is also in place a recognition process, a Code of Conduct, a philosophy and a complaints procedure for doulas and the services that they offer.