You might be wondering, "what is the scope of practice for a doula? What do they do and what don't they do? Are they like a midwife?" This is such an important topic! One of the ways that I show my clients care and respect is to provide them with a clear scope of practice, and to adhere to it. Doulas walk the line of being childbirth professionals without being medical or healthcare professionals. To help with understanding the scope of a doula, here are 10 things doulas don't do and 10 things doulas do.
What doulas don't do:
1. Doulas do not check your baby's heartbeat during pregnancy or take any vitals on mom or baby
2. Doulas do not do exams to check for cervical dilation or labor progression
3. Doulas do not provide prenatal medical care or exams of any kind
4. Doulas do not give medical advice or diagnose any medical conditions
5. Doulas do not deliver the baby
6. Doulas do not take the partner's place (unless there is no involved partner)
7. Doulas do not make medical decisions for the mom or the baby
8. Doulas do not impose their own beliefs or ideals on their client
9. Doulas do not only attend home births. They also attend births at birth centers and at hospitals
10. Doulas do not guarantee outcomes. For example, in the case of a VBAC, because many things are out of our control
What doulas do:
1. Doulas provide you with resources to assist you with getting your needs met or getting your questions answered
2. Doulas provide you with evidence based information to assist you with informed consent
3. Doulas empower you to ask questions and be involved in your own care during pregnancy and birth
4. Doulas provide comfort measures during labor by using techniques such as counter-pressure, position changes, warmth or coolness, water, etc
5. Doulas help facilitate your partner's involvement within the comfort of all parties
6. Doulas step in to provide ongoing support when your partner needs to take a break
7. Doulas provide support for your partner and other members of your birth circle
8. Doulas listen to your wishes and help you organize your thoughts into a birth plan
9. Doulas support your goals, whether or not it's what they would choose to do personally
10. Doulas help you prepare emotionally and physically for labor and childbirth.
The best thing that a doula can do for her clients is to make sure that they are always receiving the best, most informed care possible, and that means adhering to their scope of practice and referring clients to medical professionals when indicated. This creates the best possible situations for moms, babies, and doulas alike!