What is a doula? By Manisha Sheth (nurturing mama)

What Is A Birth Doula?

A birth doula is someone who provides practical and emotional support to mums and their birth partners during pregnancy, labour and birth. I’m there to support you without judgement and provide you with evidence-based information so that you’re fully informed to make the choices best for you and your baby.

What Is A Postnatal Doula?

Many mums struggle with the transition post birth, whether this is their 1st or 5th baby. Postnatal doulas provide practical and emotional support to mums to help her to recover and establish a positive relationship with a baby. I also provide mums help with routine, sleep and self-care as these are all important when transitioning in to your new role.

Why Do I need A Doula?

Since birth has become medicalised, the rate of traumatic births has increased because mums find themselves not understanding the process and feeling out of control. Doulas are there to give up to date, evidence-based information so parents can make the best choices for them and their baby. We are there to reduce the anxieties and make the experience of pregnancy and birth positive and empowering. We happily support and advocate mums’ choices without judgement and our priority is to make sure she’s happy.

In recent times, family dynamics have changed, and mums find themselves isolated with very little or no support. We no longer live in a community and just because the village has gone, the needs of mothers are still very much there. We also live in a world where everybody’s options matter, and mums are now expected to ‘bounce back’ within a few weeks of baby arriving, where the baby is ‘sleeping through the night’ and ‘back to normal’. We’ve completed abandoned some beautiful and necessary traditions of the fourth trimester, where mum is looked after and made sure she is recovered mentally and physically in the first few weeks post birth.

Doulas are there to play the role that no longer exists in our community. We are the support system that mums need to feel confident during pregnancy, birth and after. We’re there to give you the time and space to heal, and work out how you want to parent, give you non-judgmental support and provide you with any relevant information that will help you.

What Are The Benefits Of Hiring A Doula?

Studies have shown that when a birth doula has been involved, the rate caesareans have reduced by half and mums are 4 times less likely to use epidural as pain relief. The rate of initial and continued breastfeeding is also increased, and mums are more likely to have a confident, positive birth.

Can I Have A Doula If I Have A Cesarean?

Yes, just because you’re having a caesarean birth, doesn’t mean it can’t be positive. Doulas are there to provide you with emotional and practical support and we can help you have find out all of your options, and give ideas on how to have a gentle caesarean. Many mums feel very anxious before caesarean for many reasons, doulas are there to help you to understand the process, your choices and reduce those anxieties. They may be able to be with you in theatre, depending on the hospital policies, otherwise, they can be there for you before and after to make sure you’re happy and getting what you need.

What About The Birth Partner?

Doulas are not there to take over the role of the birth-partner, we’re there to support both of you as a family. Sometimes birth-partners don’t know what to do, so we help educate them about what to expect and give them the confidence to help mum during pregnancy, birth and post-birth. We guide and support birth partners to be more involved, so both can enjoy the birth experience together.

How Do I Choose A Doula?

Although not all doulas are registered, a good place to start would be to have a look on Doula UK. This will give you details of Doula UK doulas in your area. To become registered with Doula UK, all members need to have completed a Doula UK accredited training course which includes coursework, practical training sessions and post-coursework/assessments. I would always recommend that you speak to and meet with a few local doulas to make sure you’re the right fit and you feel completely comfortable with them.

What Should I Expect?

Birth doulas normally have a standard package which includes 2 antenatal visits, being on-call for 38-42 weeks and 1 postnatal visit. Some doulas have experience or training in other relevant areas, for example I’ve trained as an antenatal educator, hypnobirthing teacher and aromatherapy for childbirth. Doulas also include continuous support via phone, email throughout pregnancy, lend out relevant books and signpost to any services that might be beneficial to you.

Postnatal doulas normally charge by the hour and provide practical and emotional support after baby is born according to your needs. It is best to always speak to doulas about how they can help you and choose a doula that you get on it with.

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