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