Being a doula was the first way in which I got involved in supporting women in pregnancy and childbirth. I have supported nearly 50 women in pregnancy and birth and although I cannot take birth clients at present I am a member of Doula UK, the national network of doulas.
You may be in need of a birth doula if you find yourself thinking….
- I would really like a natural birth but I’m not sure how I will cope with pain
- I think I might want an epidural/induction/caesarean – but I would like to know more about the risks
- I would love it if there were someone experienced who could be with me while I’m in labour, to leave my partner free to be with our older child if necessary
- I still feel disappointed/angry/confused about my previous birth – I would like it to go better next time
- All this advice and information about pregnancy and birth is confusing – I need someone to talk me through it
- It would be nice to have someone there during my whole labour and birth instead of being passed from midwife to midwife
- lower rates of caesarean and instrumental deliveries
- better birth outcomes
- better start to breastfeeding
What is a doula?
“Doula” (pronounced doola) is a Greek word meaning caregiver or “woman servant”. It now refers to an experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a pregnant mother (or couple) before, during and after childbirth. A doula enables a woman to have the most satisfying and empowering time that she can during pregnancy, birth and the early days as a new mother. This type of continuous, personal support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience.
We are fortunate in the UK in that we have a great tradition of midwifery and there is a strong culture of respect for birth as a normal and natural event, not a medical event. Our childbirth practices are still based on the concept that a doctor is only needed if something goes wrong.
Ideally we would have one midwife for every mother and we would not need doulas. Despite the ambitions of campaigners and the promises of politicians, a modern hospital birth can still be impersonal and frightening. The mother finds herself a strange environment, surrounded by a succession of strangers using increasingly threatening jargon – all these factors can make the birth more difficult for her.
A doula, by contrast, makes a hospital birth more human. She takes time to get acquainted with you. She stays with you from your early labour until after the birth, when you are resting with your new baby in your arms. She is a reassuring presence and a comforting, friendly and well-informed voice.
Giving birth to my four children taught me that it was an exciting but often daunting process. I profoundly wanted to empower other women to make the same journey confidently, and to have the best birth they can have. I believe every woman who has the physical ability to carry a baby to term should end up feeling she was in charge of the birth of her child, if that’s what she wanted.