Women and families have traditionally always had support during childbirth and in the postnatal period. But, as midwives are put under growing strain and many new mums feel they need extra support, the trend of hiring a doula is becoming more popular – including by Meghan Markle, who used a doula during the pregnancy and birth of Lilbet. So, what actually is a doula? Here’s all you need to know.
Doula: All You Need to Know
We spoke to Kicki Hansard, an-award winning doula and published author who’ll be speaking at The Baby Show in March, who gave us an in-depth insight into the role of a doula.
What is a Doula?
In short, a doula is someone, usually a woman, who provides emotional, practical, and informational support to women and their partners (if they have one), before, during and after childbirth.
Doulas are not medically trained and do not give advice; they provide information so that their clients can make the right choices for themselves, based on research and evidence-based information.
There are different types of doulas – the two most popular doulas in the childbearing year are birth doulas and postnatal doulas.
Birth doulas help you prepare for your baby’s upcoming birth and stay with you throughout labour and birth and they will usually meet up with you in the early postnatal period.
Postnatal doulas support new parents to find their feet, offering information, practical support – as well as helping with whatever needs doing in the house so that mum can focus on her baby.
Do I Need a Doula?
It’s not always possible to get hold of your midwife or doctor to ask questions or find out information about perhaps a worry or concern you might have. If you have a doula, you will be able to email or call them for help.
Knowing that when labour starts, your doula will come to your house to support you and any other birthing partners, giving you reassurance that everything is normal, can bring a real sense of safety.
Having someone there during labour and birth who is solely there for you that you can trust means your experience is likely to be more positive.
Doulas will usually assist with newborn care and family adjustments, meal preparation and light household tasks. Postnatal doulas offer evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and can make appropriate referrals when necessary.
What are the Benefits of a Doula?
Having a doula has shown in research to have a great impact on both birth outcomes and the experience of early parenthood.
One finding concluded that women cared for during labour by a birth doula, compared to those receiving usual care, were:
• less likely to give birth by caesarean section
• less likely to give birth with a vacuum extractor or forceps
• less likely to use any analgesia or anaesthesia
• less likely to be dissatisfied or negatively rate their birth experience
• less likely to have a long labour
• less likely to have a baby that needed to go to special care
When it comes to postnatal doula support, research by experts tells us that new parents who have support and feel secure and cared for during this time are more successful in adapting than those who don’t.
Studies have shown that cultures in which women are cared for by others for a defined period of days or weeks and are expected only to nurture themselves and their babies during that time have superior outcomes in postnatal adjustment.
How is a Doula Different to a Midwife?
Doulas are not medically trained, so they do not:
• Carry out any midwifery tasks such as vaginal exams or monitoring the baby’s heart tone
• Diagnose conditions
• Make decisions on behalf of their clients
• Usually change shifts or leave after a certain number of hours
• Usually plan to catch the baby
However, there is some overlap when it comes to the work of doulas and midwives. They are all trained to offer emotional support and believe in the importance of a positive birth experience for the parents.
Midwives don’t usually come around in the postnatal period to help with the baby, unless you’re watching Call the Midwife!
How Much Does a Doula Cost?
What a doula charge usually depends on their experience as well as additional training and knowledge. It also depends on what area of the country they are working in, what they include in their doula packages and whether they also charge expenses for travel and parking.
You can expect to pay anything between £600 to £3,000 for a birth doula’s services.
Postnatal doulas charge an hourly rate, starting at £15 up to £40 and many doulas will also charge travel expenses. A postnatal doula would usually want to work a minimum number of hours per shift, and often they are quite flexible in terms of number of shifts per week.
Research confirms that having a doula means you’re more likely to have a positive birth experience, which could mean you feel better after the birth and bond more easily with your baby.
If you would like to have a doula support you, you could ask your friends and family to buy Doula Gift Vouchers towards the cost of a doula as a baby shower gift. Many doulas also offer a sliding scale so speaking to a few that cover your area is recommended – you can find one on thedouladirectory.com.
You can hear more from Kicki at www.thebabyshow.co.uk taking place 4-6 March at London Excel, the UK’s leading pregnancy and parenting event, which will play host to the UK’s leading baby and parenting experts and guest speakers.