What is a birth doula?

A birth doula is someone who is there to offer you emotional and physical support and encouragement throughout your labour, to enable you to focus on the job of birthing your baby.

We believe that the majority of women are able and capable of birthing their baby without the need of additional medical support. However, in order to achieve this, they need to feel well supported by their birthing partners, so that they can relax, let go, trust in their body and their instincts, and feel safe. Having people around them who they already know and have built a trusting relationship with, who know their hopes, fears and needs, and who will act as an advocate for them if necessary, can go a long way to enabling women to feel confident to birth their baby in the way that is right for them.

 

What does a birth doula do?

  • A doula is there in a supportive capacity. She is not medically trained, and is not there in place of a midwife, but rather works alongside the midwife.
  • Having a doula present can help the dad or other birth partner to feel more confident to support the mum in a way that most helps her. This can in turn make the partner's experience of the birth more positive. A doula is not there to replace the dad/partner, unless they are not able to be at the birth.
  • A doula "mothers the mother". She can provide empathy and compassion, having experienced childbirth herself.
  • A doula can help to explain things that are being suggested by the midwife, if you are not sure what they mean or what the implications are. She does not offer advice, but supports whatever choices you make, having made sure you fully understand your options.
  • When necessary, a doula can act as your advocate.

 

What difference can a doula make?

Research has shown that having a birth doula can:

  • shorten the labour of a first time mother by an average of 2 hours
  • reduce the need for a Caesarean by 50%
  • reduce the use of forceps by 40%
  • decrease the need for pain relief
  • help new fathers to participate with confidence
  • increase rates of breastfeeding success

Ref: Mothering the Mother by Klaus, Kennell and Klaus 1993

Having a doula present at your birth can give you peace of mind that someone is there for you, who knows you, your hopes and fears, who can advocate for you and support you, who believes in your ability to birth your baby and who can act as a bridge between you and your medical caregivers if necessary. 

 

What do I offer you?

Before the birth I will:
  • visit you (and your partner if he/she plans to be at the birth) 3 times whilst you are pregnant, in order for us to get to know one another, and to give me the chance to really discover what your hopes and fears for the birth are, and how to best meet your needs. 
  • go on call for you 2 weeks before your due date, until 2 weeks after. I will provide 24 hour cover during this time.
Throughout the labour I will:
  • provide continuous emotional and physical support for you throughout your labour and birth. There are no shift changes for a doula - I will be there for as long as you need me! Examples of this support include: 
    • Acting as your advocate 
    • Massaging you
    • Cooling you down with a cold flannel
    • Helping you to change positions
    • Giving you a hand to hold
    • Reassuring that all is going well and you are doing great
    • Explaining any processes that are being suggested/offered and the implications of them
  • provide support for your partner as necessary. My presence can allow your partner to take guilt-free breaks when necessary, knowing that you are still being supported.
After the birth I will:
  • visit you and your new family twice in the early days. I will provide you with a written account of the labour and birth and, whenever you are ready, you will then have the opportunity to talk through your birth experience with me.
  • help you in the early days in whatever ways are most useful. This could include offering breast feeding support, taking the baby out so you can rest, doing the shopping/laundry etc, or just chatting together about the common worries and concerns all new mothers have, and reassuring you that what you are feeling/experiencing is normal!

 

FAQs about having a doula.

What if I don't feel comfortable being naked in front of my doula?

Nobody has to strip off in labour - whether you have a doula or not, you can stay as dressed as you want to. You will have got to know your doula over a number of weeks beforehand, building up trust and understanding, and having a chance to discuss any worries or concerns like this one that you may have. A doula wants to help you to feel at ease and comfortable, so that you can relax and labour well, and she will be sensitive to any feelings of embarrassment you may have.

Will the hospital allow a doula in the room?

All the births I have supported have been very positive about having me there as a doula. Often, in the big hospitals where the staff are very busy, they find it helpful to have someone supporting the mum who has a deep knowledge of the birth process. That way, if the midwife has to leave the room to care for another woman, she knows that the couple won't feel alone, as they have their doula with them.

Can I have a doula at a Caesarean birth?

If the Caesarean is planned, it is worth talking to the hospital in advance to see if they would be happy to have two birth supporters in theatre. Some are, some less so. As this is not an emergency situation, they may be more amenable to the idea than for an unplanned Caesarean.

If a Caesarean becomes necessary during labour, the doula may not be able to join the parents in theatre, as there is not so much space. If this happens, she will wait for the parents in the recovery area, and will be there for them when they come out of theatre.

Are doulas medically trained?

Some doulas are also midwives, or retired midwives, but on the whole they are not medically trained. A doula's role is supportive, not clinical. She is not there to offer advice, or make medical decisions, she is there to help the parents understand what their choices and options are, so that they feel well informed.

Can I have a doula at my home birth?

Yes! Doulas are happy to work wherever the mother wants to have her baby - at home, at a birth centre or in a hospital.

How long will the doula stay with me if I have a protracted labour?

For as long as you want her. Doulas are there to offer continuity of care, and know that birth takes as long as it takes. The shortest time I have supported a mum was two hours, the longest was three days.

Can a doula help during an induction?

Yes! Doulas can help and support whether the labour starts by itself, or requires medical assistance to get it going. Inductions can be challenging, so often a doula's presence is particularly appreciated if the labour is tough.

What happens if I change my mind and decide not to have a doula there on the day?

That's your choice, and the doula will respect it. For me, I require payment in advance to secure the booking, and if someone chooses not to call me after all, I do not offer a refund. This has never happened, though - I think that if a mum wants a doula, then she wants a doula.

 

What does it cost?

A birth doula package of 5 meetings, email and telephone support, 4 weeks of on-call and a written account of the birth is £950.00.

Additional expenses include:

  • Once the doula has been present at the labour for 24 hours, there will then be an hourly rate of £15 until the baby is born or the doula leaves.
  • For bookings beyond a 20 mile radius of my home, there will be an additional mileage charge. The John Radcliffe and the Horton are both within this limit.

If you require more than 5 visits from the doula, these will be charged at £20 per hour.

 

For more testimonials about our doula services, click here.