The role of a doula is to provide specific labor-support skills, techniques, and strategies, offer guidance and encouragement, build a team relationship with the nursing staff, encourage communication between the patient and medical caregivers, and assist the mother in covering the gaps in her care. According to DONA (n.d.), a doula's role can be summarized in seven objectives:
To recognize birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all of her life;
To understand the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor;
To assist the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plan for the birth;
To stay by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor;
To provide emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint, and assistance to the woman in getting the information she needs to make good decisions;
To facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and clinical care providers; and
To perceive the doula's role as one who nurtures and protects the woman's memory of her birth experience.
Doulas use techniques such as imagery, massage, acupressure, and patterned breathing to reduce a woman's pain. They suggest position changes to accelerate labor or aid in fetal positioning. They also provide guidance and encouragement to minimize fear and anxiety, and encourage touch and communication between the laboring woman and her partner.