A question I have answered a lot recently is “what is a Doula?” especially when talking to pregnant women, many of whom asking if I attend births. Unfortunately as much as I would love to attend births this is not part of my job, where attending births is a large part of a doulas job description.

So what exactly is a Doula?
Doula" (pronounced "doola") is a Greek word meaning "woman servant or caregiver”. According the Doula UK “Doula 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 new mum. This type of support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience”

To have a better understanding and find out more about  hiring a doula I asked fellow hypnobirthing practitioner and doula Steph Grainger  www.consciousbirth.co.uk a few questions. Here she has shared what being a doula means to her and also some of her experiences working as one.

In your opinion what are the benefits of hiring a doula?
A doula Recognises birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all her life. She understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour.
A doula assists the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plans for the birth and then stays by the side of the labouring woman throughout the entire labour.
She also provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint and assistance to the woman in getting the information she needs to make good decisions and facilitates communication between the labouring woman, her partner and clinical care providers.
A doula perceives her role as one who nurtures and protects the woman’s memory of her birth experience.
Research has shown that a constant supportive presence throughout labour results in:
50% reduction in caesarean rates
25% shorter labour
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in Syntocinon use
30% reduction in analgesia use
40% reduction in forceps delivery
From Klaus & Klaus's The Doula Book (2002).

Are you medically qualified?
NO! I am not medically trained at all and always ensure each client I work with understands that and they know that is the job of their Midwife/Health Professionals. I do not give advice or share my opinion on any matter. I help clients to make informed decisions based on up to date guidelines, resources and evidence

Do midwives mind you being at the birth? Do you work together?
I have been in scenarios where midwives have not been best pleased with my presence, but I would like to think that changed once they got to work alongside me. Usually the main reason for hostility towards Doulas is because of a lack of awareness for what we do, or more importantly what we don’t do! A midwife can feel that we are there to take her role and that really is not the case. Having said that I have had the opportunity to work alongside some fabulous midwives, and it has been a really lovely experience for all concerned.
The best case scenario is being able to work with the midwife so that the birthing mother feels she can trust that everyone around her is there for her 100%.
As a member of Doula UK we do a lot of work regionally, raising awareness and part of this is going along to our local hospitals and talking to Midwives and Health Professionals about what we do. So this helps to iron out any issues or questions that may be out there about how a doula works.

Can you tell me a bit about the births you have attended?
I have attended 11 births in the last 2 years. Some were natural homebirths in water pools, or on ‘dry land’ others were in hospital. I have also supported a couple through a C-Section too.
My role at each birth can be anything from making tea, pumping up birth pools, filling birth pools, taking photos, supporting the mother through surges, supporting dads through surges, protecting the space so Mum and Dad can have the experience together with no intrusion. I have also been there for siblings too when Mummy is birthing at home. As I said before each birth is completely unique! What seems like the ideal birth to one woman can be the very opposite to another!
The most enjoyable part of being a Doula is witnessing a birth where the client’s choices were respected and met wherever possible, and my client also knowing that if situations have to change due to reasons out of their control, they are fully informed so are able to make conscious decisions because of that.

How long do you work with your couples/mothers?
That would all depend on when I was booked. I have been booked as early as 18 weeks to 39!
If we have time I like to get to know my clients as much as possible, so will try to meet with them at least two times before their birth, and I did manage this at 39 weeks!
We start out by chatting about what their expectations are for their birth and me as their doula and go from there. Many things are discussed during my meet ups with clients, birth preferences, feeding choices, coping with newborns etc. Again this varies from one client to another. I may be working with a first time mum that has very limited knowledge or experience of childbirth or I could be with another that has had a very traumatic birth experience and needs the space to de brief and let go of that. So each session I spend will be completely tailor made to each client.
My goal is to get to know my clients so that when the birth day comes, they are relieved when I walk in the room as they completely trust me and know I understand what they need and want.

Who should hire a Doula?
Anyone!  As childbirth has moved from home to hospital, a vital element of care has been lost from the whole process. Gone are the days where a woman would have continuous support from one carer throughout her labour unless she has an Independent Midwife.
It used to be the case that the womenfolk within the immediate and extended family (mothers/sisters/grandmother etc.) would be on hand to provide the nurturing role for the new mother, to guide by experience and help with the practicalities that need to be performed before, during and after a woman gives birth to a baby. Unfortunately this is not the case for a lot of people. Families are spread out and may not be close enough to help out when a new baby is coming.
There is also more pressure for men to be present in the birth scenario, when they may not feel 100% confident so having another person there to support both of them can help alleviate the pressure on Dad and he can enjoy the experience a lot more too.

How do your clients find out about you?
The majority of my clients have found me through the Doula UK website, as there is a ‘Find A Doula’ section on there. But recently I am getting bookings through clients that have referred me to their friends, and this is the best scenario, because I know I have really done my job well if another client has recommended me. I also attend local baby shows, expectant parent evenings at hospitals and I have my own website too.

Do you have any advice for parents looking to hire a Doula?
There are many women who have come to be doulas through a variety of journeys, all are passionate about their work. The most important thing to consider when employing a doula is "Do I like this woman? Can I spend time with her? Can I trust her?"
You will find there are as many different doulas as there are people, there is not a typical doula. So I would suggest interviewing two or three women, maybe first by phone and then face-to-face. Ask a doula for references or for other doulas' details in your area. At the end of the day, you need to find the right doula for you.

If you are interested in hiring a doula or would like more information please visit Doula UK http://doula.org.uk

My husband has just told me that the article below was one of the reasons he first looked into Hypnobirthing when we were having our son. Having only just read it myself I feel I must share, and who knows it may inspire another father into taking the first steps to a calm birth.

Hypnobirthing  : A man taking charge during childbirth?

I was a bit skeptical about hypnobirthing too, but there really is a way for men to take some of the strain on the big day.

I had always believed the maternity ward delivery room was a woman’s domain. That the man’s role consisted of calling for the ambulance or rushing his partner to hospital, then waiting nervously in the hospital corridor praying for everything to be OK and over as quickly as possible. Or maybe, if my presence was absolutely demanded, stealing a drag on the laughing gas and saying patronising things such as ‘keep going, darling’.

So I prepared to be of limited use to my wife Candy: I would hold her trembling hand while absorbing her abuse. Until that is, I reluctantly agreed to miss football and spend two whole Saturdays on a hypnobirthing course.

I had no idea the man could play such a leading role in childbirth. But when, erm, push came to shove, there I was, relaxing my wife, focusing her breathing, working through the birth plan with the midwives and making informed decisions with confidence. I amazed myself. In my wife’s words, after the safe arrival of our baby Jude: ‘I was the body, you were the mind.’

Giving birth is the most natural thing a woman can do, yet many female minds are filled with horror stories. Fear leads to tension, which can restrict the body at a time when it needs to let nature take its course. Hypnobirthing offers hypnosis in labour and childbirth to women who want to be in control of a drug-free, comfortable delivery and get their men pulling their weight.

Now more popular than ever in Britain, hypnobirthing is a complete antenatal education for whatever kind of birth you’re planning. We chose a hospital birth pool – alternative, yes, but perfectly normal in the modern age; even old-school midwives are coming round to it.

Signing up to Berkshire HypnoBirthing, we joined three other couples eight weeks before their due date at a Pilates studio in Reading. The comprehensive course was split over two days and our hypnoteacher, Vanessa Turner, made learning each new topic easy, between lessons sending the group into a state of deep relaxation.

‘HypnoBirthing techniques and methods are easy to learn and apply,’ says Turner (inset left). ‘They play a vital role in making the birthing experience calmer, more peaceful and meaningful for mum, dad and baby.

‘The man’s role is crucial. He provides practical, emotional and physical support – much better than sitting in the corner wondering what he can do to help.’

Turner explained ten ways to achieve a gentle birth, the rationale for hypnosis in birth and how to block out birth nightmares. We were told to not even consider them and to leave out negative energy. The mind can only hold one thought at a time and the course places great importance on desire, belief, relaxation and visualisation.

Turner explained how thought precedes reality and how every emotion triggers a physical response. A section was devoted to big babies, a common fear, and the women were made to trust their inner knowledge or instinct, to trust that their body knows exactly what to do.

The group was then shown images illustrating the various stages of birth and a selection of calming hypnobirths on DVD. The men were in charge of relaxation-deepening exercises, helping dump negative energy and thoughts.

‘I teach a wide variety of techniques and encourage men to become fully involved,’ says Turner. ‘It builds their confidence, helps them trust themselves and means they can learn what a woman needs at different stages of labour and birth.’

During the breathing exercises I spoke in a slow, calming voice to enhance a trance-like sensation, the idea being to maintain focus and reduce discomfort. Hypnobirthing bans words such as ‘pain’ and ‘contractions’ as these are considered negative –‘discomfort’ and ‘surges’ are preferred.

‘The benefits to mum are such that a woman can feel safer, can trust and let go during the process of giving birth more instinctively when she knows her partner is taking care of everything on the outside,’ adds Turner.

‘This means birthing can be a calmer and more comfortable experience where both mum and dad feel confident and in control to make whatever choices are necessary for a healthy delivery of their baby.’

The main goal of the course is to arm prospective parents with the tools to stay in control. It doesn’t end in the classroom, either. We were told to practise the techniques for at least five minutes every day and encouraged to have conversations with the unborn baby and play him music.

I saw my job as learning the birth plan by heart before the contractions – sorry, surges – took hold, to avoid unnecessary medical intervention on the big day.

I was pumped up and ready, and not at all nervous. Two days after her due date and it was action stations – but only my wife can tell you how it went

Read more: http://www.metro.co.uk/lifestyle/836745-hypnobirthing-a-man-taking-charge-during-childbirth#ixzz25RZzZD19


    I love babies, children and all things relating to birth. I'm
    fascinated by how the body works through pregnancy and believe that knowledge is power. Therefore I would like to share my findings with anyone who will listen in the hope that they too will learn something new.


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