What is a doula?
“Doula” is a Greek word meaning “woman servant or caregiver”. It now refers to an experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth. A doula believes in “mothering the mother” – enabling a woman to have the most satisfying and empowered time that she can during pregnancy, birth and the early days as a mother to a new baby. This type of support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience.
Birth doulas are trained and experienced in childbirth, usually mother themselves. They have a good knowledge and awareness of female physiology but do not take on a clinical/medical role.
Postnatal doulas work flexible hours to suit the family, offering practical and emotional support to the new mother and the whole family in their home following the birth of the new baby.
What are some of the benefits of having a Doula at your birth?
Some of the benefits of having a birth doula are shown here in the results of the 2008 UK Doula Survey –
- 21% gave birth at home (compared to 2% nationally)
- 35% of labours were under 6 hours
- 72% of labours were under 12 hours
- Nearly 50% fewer caesareans (14% compared to 26.6% NHS – Gtr London demographic)
- 65% fewer inductions (7% compared to 20% nationally)
- 96% breastfed at birth (compared to 76% nationally)
- 6% where the doula was the sole birth partner
- Study of 436 births (47% were first time mothers)
- 84% breastfed for 6 weeks
- 79% breastfed for 12 weeks (higher than NHS average at birth)
Study of 224 families supported postnatally
Research has shown that having a doula present at a birth;
- Shortens labour by an average of 25%
- Decreases the chance of having a caesarean section by 50%
- Decrease the need for a forceps delivery by 40%
- Decreases the use of an epidural by 60%
- Helps fathers participate with confidence
- Increases success in breastfeeding
- Lowers the risk of suffering from postnatal depression.
(These benefits have been recognised by the World Health Organization).
Do you have training as a birth doula?
Yes. I trained as a doula with Nurturing Birth and upon completion of both the course and the course work I underwent the Doula UK mentoring process with a wonderful mentor with more than 20 years of experience. I gained the knowledge and experience to become a recognised birth doula and since then have continued to attend various courses and workshops to increase my knowledge and understanding, keep my information current and maintain my CPD credits.
What hospitals have you attended births at?
I have attended births at a number of hospitals and free standing birth centres around London including the Barkantine Birth Centre, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Croydon Hospital, Hommerton Hospital, Kingston Hospital, Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, St George’s Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital, University College Hospital, Whittington Hospital.
When is the best time to book you as a birth doula?
I have taken ‘bookings’ at various times, from the start of the second trimester to the day after a mother’s EDD. Once you have had your first scan, the sooner you book the better. This is to ensure that you have all the support you need, the information you may want at each stage of your pregnancy and for us to start to get to know each other.
Is a doula a midwife?
No. Although doulas have knowledge of the birthing processes they are not medically trained and do not replace midwives. A doula does not provide or perform any clinical/medical care or procedures.
Do you come to my home when I’m in labour?
This would be entirely up to you. Some women prefer their doula to meet them at their home and stay with them whilst they labour until it is time to go to the hospital (unless they are having a homebirth). They often find comfort in having the doula travel to hospital with them. Others prefer to meet their doula in hospital when they are in established labour.
What about my partner? Won’t the doula take their place?
No. The doula is there to support you and your partner and work as a team together in a way that would provide you both with the best support possible. A good doula knows not to interrupt the vital interaction between a woman and her partner. A doula does not distract from the partner but instead ensures that the partner is also given support and confidence so that they can support the labouring mother and enjoy the amazing experience of childbirth in the best way they can, to the level that they are comfortable with.
Can a doula help if I am having a planned Caesarean Birth?
Yes. A doula can be helpful even for a planned Caesarean. She can help with providing information and physical and emotional support. The doula can attend the surgical part of the delivery if there is no other birth partner present (most hospitals only admit one birth partner into the theatre). The doula can sit with the mother in recovery and on the postnatal ward while the other birth partner stays with the baby. The doula can also help with initiating and supporting breastfeeding, which may be more challenging after a cesarean birth.
What does a doula not do?
A doula cannot make decisions for her client, but is there to provide support and information when making decisions about the labour and birth. A doula does not perform any clinical/medical tasks such as vaginal exams.