Labor Doulas help you during the labor and birthing process. Postpartum Doulas help you after. One is not more important than the other. Which may be more helpful depends on the individual circumstances and people involved. Utilizing both may offer the greatest benefit.
Labor Doulas usually begin meeting with expecting parents months before the birth. They'll establish a relationship and build a birth plan. Once labor begins, the Labor Doula provides continuous support--physical, emotional and informational. She'll help you recognize the various stages of labor, keep you calm, show you positions and techniques to ease your pain, and help you immediately after the birth. Most Labor Doulas do a Postpartum Visit as well, to recap the birth, see how you're adjusting and often give Birth Stories or pictures.
Postpartum Doulas often meet with expecting parents before the birth. (Or, after the birth, when parents are suddenly overwhelmed!) Postpartum Doulas provide physical, emotional and informational support after the birth. They'll help you recognize normal stages of Postpartum Recovery, Newborn Development and Breastfeeding. Postpartum Doulas show you techniques to keep you comfortable and speed healing while you are recovering. They'll guide you in newborn care (bathing, feeding, soothing, etc.) if you're a new mom, or care for your other children if you're not a new mom. They'll help with laundry, dishes and food preparation so you can rest.
Postpartum is not as clearly defined as Labor....Most women will not be in labor for more than 24 hours. Postpartum Recovery is at least 6 weeks, but Postpartum Adjustment can take 3-4 months or more--especially when adequate support is lacking. It's important to have an advocate during your journey. Each Doula has their unique place in a complete birth and recovery plan.
Postpartum Doula, Breastfeeding Counselor, Mother of Three.