Could a doula transform your birthing experience?

If you are looking for support throughout pregnancy, birth and through the post-partum period then a doula is a wonderful option. A doula is a fully-trained individual (usually female) who will offer practical and emotional support during this momentous period of your life.

What are the advantages of having a doula?

A doula isn’t there to offer specific advice but rather to help you to find the information you need to make the right choices for you. They will offer support and help you to feel confident and prepared for the birth. Some doulas will only be present at the birth, while others will continue to visit during the post-partum period.

A doula will not form part of your medical team. They are privately hired to assist you. Doulas are not limited to the type of birth they will assist with. They can help with homebirths, active births and elective caesareans. Many women and families find it a comfort to know that someone who has devoted their life to learning about childbirth will be present. As well as being trained, a doula will have been present at numerous births and is likely to be a mother herself. Knowing that she has this insight can be greatly reassuring.

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What exactly does a doula do?

It is usual for a doula to initially meet with an expectant mother, allowing her to ask any questions and also to ascertain if the relationship works. After the initial meeting it is likely that the doula will visit the home of the mother once or twice more, often with the partner present if he is available. During these sessions the doula can help the women to arrive at her own birth choices as well as bonding together in preparation for the birth. Most doulas will be available after these sessions to discuss any worries by phone or email. From around 38 weeks gestation onwards the doula will be available 24 hours day, they will be waiting on stand by for the labour to start. The couple will decide at which point to phone the doula and she will meet them, often at their house during early labour. Staying with them in the case of a home birth or travelling to hospital with them if this is their plan.

During the labour the doula will be able to offer suggestions to do with breathing, birth positions, relaxation techniques, movement and coping with pain. She will use the knowledge of the individual that she has built up over the previous sessions to guide in the best way for them. The doula can also ensure that the partner is involved in the labour and feels comfortable and confident. The doula will remain with the couple until the baby is born and will only leave when she is confident that the family is settled. Birth doulas will usually visit one more time, during this session it can be helpful for the mother to talk through the birthing experience. The doula can also offer assistance on breastfeeding.

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Many doulas are available for the birth and the entirety of the postnatal period. Some doulas only cover the postnatal period. Some women choose to book a doula after giving birth as they feel the need for extra emotional and practical support. The doula can be available to them for as long as they need it.

A doula is there to listen, support and encourage. They will not judge you. Doulas can offer you an extra pair of hands, allowing you to rest while they take care of the baby or helping with practical tasks around the house. Their role is to offer gentle support and to help you shine as a parent.

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How do I go about getting a doula?

You can find local doulas through the following organisations:

Doula UK

Australian Doulas

DONA International

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A quick internet search will also give you details on doulas in your local area. You may like to find someone who comes recommended. Your midwife may have a few suggestions or you could even ask in local parenting groups on social media. Once you have found someone who seems promising, it is perfectly ok to ask to meet up first before you commit. They will understand how important it is to get the right person. Being present at someone’s birth is a rare honour and they will respect this.

A doula usually works on a freelance basis and costs between £15-30/hr dependent on experience. It is important to check that your doula is fully accredited and qualified. Every doula offers different unique services and many have different pricing plans, so it is worth talking things through with a doula if your budget is limited as you may still be able to afford some valuable sessions together.

In cases where their simply isn’t the money to pay for this service, you may like to ask a friend to act as a doula and be present at your birth as well as your partner or birth partner. There is no denying that, as you embark on this incredible adventure, having someone to hand whose sole role is to support you and encourage is a wonderful thing.

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