What is a doula ?
Sometimes called birth partners or birth companions, a doula is a woman experienced in childbirth, specially trained to give emotional and practical help, who can guide you and your partner through the process of preparing for birth and be with you both during labour, through birth and bonding with your newborn.
She will meet with you several times during the pregnancy and will help you write a birth plan so that you are clear about your choices and she is familiar with your preferences on issues such as pain relief, breastfeeding etc. She will be on 24 hour call for two weeks before your due date and for as long as it takes past that time and during that period is available to be called at any time should you need her. In labour she will help to make your needs and hopes for the birth a priority and will try to protect the first precious moments with your new baby ie skin contact with the mother, low lighting, gentle handling, soft voices etc.
How do doulas differ from midwives ?
A doula does not give medical advice nor does she undertake any physical examinations or perform any other clinical tasks. She cannot make decisions for you but she can help you make your feelings heard.
She is independent and self employed and is working for you, not your caregiver or hospital and as such is able to provide continuity of care while hospital staff may go through one or more shift changes.
Having met her several times during the pregnancy she provides a familiar and reassuring presence to both the mother and her partner.
Does the doula replace the father’s role ?
On the contrary. Her presence strengthens the father’s role and means that he doesn’t feel 100% responsible for his partner’s well-being – the doula is there to share that with him and it frees him to participate as much or as little as he wants.
This is such an intimate and private time. Does the doula interfere with that ?
The doula is very sensitive to the emotional bond and intimate connection between the woman and her partner and will work intuitively with the couple during the birth responding to their individual needs as the labour unfolds. At times this will mean she remains quietly in the background or will leave the room for a while to give the couple private time together: at other times, especially as labour intensifies, she will become more involved with guidance on position changes and may offer other comfort measures i.e. massage, relaxation techniques, reflexology etc. if appropriate.
What do parents feel about their experience with a doula ?
See my references to read quotes from previous clients. The results of a survey undertaken by Doula UK – www.doula.org.uk - (the national UK organisation for doulas) showed that 100% of couples would use the services of a doula again.
When should I book a doula ?
It is better to contact a doula as early as possible in your pregnancy to make sure she is available around your due date. As we make a commitment to being with you at your birth, most doulas only book in one (or at most two) birth clients per month to guarantee availability. But if you contact a doula later on in your pregnancy that’s fine too – it really is up to you.
If the doula you have chosen is not available she may be able to recommend another colleague who could take over your care and if it’s a late booking and neither are available for the whole ‘on call’ period, they may offer shared care which means you will get to know them both and they can then guarantee that one of them will be able to be with you during your birth.
How much will it cost ?
See my fees..
Birth preparation sessions for couples
You may not want to employ a doula but could still benefit from a one-to-one antenatal session. Pregnancy is a time when a woman and her partner need to be reminded that birth is natural and normal; to be well informed about the birth process and the rhythm of labour; to believe and trust in the woman’s body; to hear positive birth stories and be inspired by the miracle of birth.
These sessions can be an invaluable source of information for the couple and will help them gain a sense of confidence as they approach the birth. They are tailored according to your individual needs and may include talking about a past birth experience , discussing options in your birth plan, support techniques, breastfeeding etc.
By surrounding yourself with positive and inspired information during pregnancy you are able to make the best choices for you and your baby.
The fee is £50 for two hours and may include a guided relaxation.
Happy birthing !
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