What is a doula?

A Doula is a woman who gives support, help and advice to another woman during pregnancy and during and after the birth.
— Oxford English Dictionary

What is a Doula?

In a world where there are so many negative stories, associations and medicalised processes, a Doula helps a woman to find her voice and feel empowered with choice at every stage of her transition to motherhood. 

A Doula supports the couple as a team to make informed choices and to ensure those choices get heard when it matters.

A doula offers; emotional, practical and informational support during your pregnancy, childbirth and postnatally if desired. 

Practically, a doula will accompany you on hospital visits, hold your hand and rub your shoulders during labour, (to put it in the simplest of terms) remind your partner to eat and show how he can support you. We cook, clean up, make tea, light candles, walk miles with prams while mothers sleep, manage visitors and call the grandparents. 

Emotionally, we listen. We are the best listeners. I have no agenda and no judgement. I want what you want for your birth and postnatal time. I nurture you, I serve you.

Informationally, I will give you the information you need to help you make your decisions - and then I'll help make that happen for you. Information and evidence-based research material on antenatal education, complementary therapies or midwifery and obstetric support, I'll point you towards websites, books or research that may provide the missing pieces of the puzzle for you. 

Essentially, a Doula's job is to mother the mother-to-be in her pregnancy, in those final hours before she meets her baby and sometimes, for a short while after birth. 

A Doula's deepest desire is to gift a couple with memories of a magical birth experience to treasure for the rest of their lives. How a baby arrives earth-side, and how parents feel about the birth of their child, has global impact on our collective consciousness, and what this planet needs more than ever is healing, love and compassion.

Doulas are just women who really, truly care about other women, on a major level.
— Linda Quinn, Doula and Doula Mentor

A little Doula history

You might think (or have heard) that a Doula is a new, trendy, made up thing that privileged women have but don't really need (but Glamour Magazine told them they do.) On the contrary, Doulas have always existed. We probably kept the wolf from the door when we birthed in caves. A Doula is that woman in your village that always knows when your baby is close to arriving. We aren't in your social circle but we get to know you and love you through your pregnancy and when the time comes, we appear with food, love, oils, warm hands and calm. We shepherd the children, call the midwife and hold the mother as she and her baby work together towards birth. Oh and we support the fathers too...but more on that below. 

The word, “Doula,” comes from the Greek word for the most important female servant in an ancient Greek household. A woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth.

A Doula...

  • recognises birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all her life

  • understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour

  • assists the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plans for the birth

  • stays by the side of the labouring woman throughout the entire labour

  • provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint and assistance to the woman in getting the information she needs to make good decisions

  • facilitates communication between the labouring woman, her partner and clinical care providers

  • perceives her role as one who nurtures and protects the woman’s memory of her birth experience.

The acceptance of Doulas in maternity care is growing rapidly with the recognition of their important contribution to the improved physical outcomes and emotional well-being of mothers and infants. 

Why is there a need for Doulas?

My Nana gave birth to all her three children at home whereas my mother spent a week in hospital with me and again for my brother. It was "the norm" to do so back then. As childbirth has moved from home to hospital, a vital element of care has been lost from the whole process - that continuous support from one caregiver throughout her labour - unless she has an Independent Midwife.

It used to be the case that the women within the immediate and extended family (mothers/sisters/grandmother etc.) would be on hand to provide the nurturing role for the new mother, to guide by experience and help with the practicalities that need to be performed before, during and after a woman gives birth to a baby.

When new parents feel listened to and nurtured, when their choices are respected and babies are born and raised gently, by parents who feel strong and empowered, the world becomes a better place.  

Our relationship

Our relationship will probably begin a few months before the baby is due. During this period, we will start to gradually get to know each other. You can ask me all your questions, and I'll help you to unpick your fears, concerns and help you prepare for your birth. Practically, I can help you with tasks from helping you pack your labour bag, coming with you to appointments and scans if you wish and helping you create your birth wishes document. 

Creating a soothing, warm and comforting birth 'nest' (like the one pictured above) is so important for birthing women. Wherever you decide to be, it's my job as your Doula, to ensure you feel safe in your environment and cared for. This nest supports and stimulates the flow of birthing hormones (endorphins and oxytocin) - which keep adrenaline at bay, allowing for a peaceful, positive birth.

In pregnancy yoga I work with my clients to prepare for birthing by practicing silencing the mind, to awaken the primal 'monkey' brain, the intuitive brain, allowing the ancient wisdom of the body to unfold naturally. 

You can call me at any time during your pregnancy with any questions or concerns that arise - I'm here for you.

A Doula will be in close and constant proximity to the mother during her birthing experience. I have the ability to provide comfort with pain relief techniques that include breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, some simple massage, and yoga movements for birth to help progress labour. 

After the birth, many birth doulas will spend some time helping mothers begin the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the new baby and other family members. I can also help nourish the mother with food, help settle the family and if a home birth, help clean up! 

Doula don'ts

I will never give you advice - my job is to help you access the support you need to decide your pregnancy and birth goals for yourself. And then give you the loving support to get there. 

I will never give you medical care. That's the midwife's job. However, I am knowledgeable in many medical aspects of labour and delivery so I can give you a better understanding of the procedures, possible complications of late pregnancy or delivery. Doulas have always complemented midwifery care. If you live in an area where you are unlikely to ever see the same midwife twice, you can't blame her for not wanting to get to know you, she doesn't have time and it's not important. This is sad but not the midwives fault. Continuity of care has been proven time and time again to be safer for you and your baby, so the role of a Doula in our current healthcare system is so beneficial. 

It is natural for our species to need the support of other women during the transition to motherhood. We seek the safety of female companions like elephants, bonobos and dolphins. A doula or midwife? It isn't either or. Pregnant women can't have too much love or care.  

The father's role

A Doula never takes the place of a husband or partner in labour, but complements them. Today, more husbands are an active role in the birth process but some prefer to have the pressure taken off them as 'labour coach' and be a little more free to enjoy the experience and just 'be there' for the mother. Doulas encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance if at any time they feel anxious.

Having a Doula allows the father to support his partner emotionally during labour and birth without frantically trying to remember everything he learned in NCT Class!

If you would like to know what I can do to support you in the birth of your baby, please visit my Doula Packages page or get in touch for a chai, a chat and we can get to know each other a little.