I found this decription of the role of a doula really interesting and informative, so thought I'd share it. It's written by Christina Rochette, who's details are linked to her name at the bottom of the article...
A labor doula is a person who gives emotional, physical, and informational support to a woman and her support team before, during, and immediately after birth.
I am trained to give support in a variety of settings, to aid transition from home to hospital/birth center, to utilize a number of comfort techniques, to facilitate communication between the woman and her health care providers, to facilitate inclusion of labor partners to the extent desired, to advocate for the family, and to give information and other resources as requested.
It is my belief that women having cesareans deserve at least the same level of support as other mothers. I have thus decided to offer doula services for women having cesarean sections for whatever reason. Doulas do not typically receive special training to attend cesarean sections, so I have taken it upon myself to learn what might be needed....My first official birth as a solo labor doula was a fantastic VBAC that only heightened my desire to advance the cause for VBAC rights and cesarean education.
What is Included? My labor doula services include 2 prenatal visits, assistance creating a birth plan, phone and email support before and after delivery, full support during labor and delivery, 1-2 postpartum visits to help process the birth, assist with breastfeeding, and assess postpartum recovery. Mothers requiring a cesarean section will receive 2-3 postpartum visits and additional resources.
During prenatal appointments we will get to know each other, develop your birth plan, ready you and your partner for birth, discuss your desires and preferences, and practice relaxation and other coping techniques for labor. When you go into active labor, I will come to your home and follow you to your place of birth, if not your home, to be with you as your emotional, physical, and informational assistant. During the first hours after birth, I will assist with latching on for breastfeeding and help answer any questions about newborn care.
Postpartum, we will discuss your birth, feeding and caring for your baby, and help with any other resources you may need, such references to breastfeeding classes, therapists to assist with postpartum depression, or a postpartum doula.
What is Not Included? A doula is not a medical professional and cannot perform medical tasks, make diagnoses, or make medical recommendations. A doula cannot "catch" your baby except in an emergency. A doula has experiential knowledge, but is not seen as receiving formal medical training. A doula does not speak for you, but gives you the tools to speak for yourself and those you love. A labor doula is not usually trained in long-term care before and after labor - a woman may choose to hire an antepartum doula for emotional and informational support during pregnancy or a postpartum doula to assist with household chores, childcare, recovery, and other necessities after a birth.
Because childbirth is an inherently unpredictable event, no guarantee of a particular outcome can be made.