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Whats a Doula?

What is a Doula?
A Doula is a person who supports a family during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period offering consistent support
and non biased information if requested. During the birth the Doula will stay with the family throughout. It is a non
medical role and the Doula will become close to the family over the time they spend together.
‘Continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All
women should have support throughout labour and birth’ (www.cochrane.org)
Numerous clinical studies have found that a Doula’s presence at birth
• Tends to result in shorter labours with fewer complications
• Reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
• Reduces the need for labour-inducing drugs, forceps or vacuum extraction and caesareans
• Reduces the mother’s request for pain relief and/or epidurals
• Research shows parents who receive support can:
• Feel more secure and cared for
• Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
• Have greater success with breastfeeding
• Have greater self-confidence
• Have less postnatal depression

It is my personal belief that a Doulas most important skill is to offer families time and space. During pregnancy, birth
and parenting there are so many questions to answer and options to consider. Doulas support them to come to their own decisions based on their individual needs and circumstances.

Why did you choose to be a Doula?
I was given a copy of Spiritual Midwifery written by Ina May Gaskin when I was in my early 20s, and it was that light bulb
moment- I then knew what I needed to do with my life- I would become a Midwife! Later, when I did the Doula training I realised that I had been a Doula all my life in other ways- and I felt like I had come home!
Over the following years as I was attending more and more births I decided that I no longer wished to be a Midwife as I realised that the role of a Doula is so unique and personal. I believe that being a Doula and birth education will be my life’s work.

How does it work with a Doula and your birth partner?
Firstly I am there to support the whole family, not just the birthing woman, this is a very common misconception. I have found that if the birthing partner is calm, confident and knowledgeable about the phases that labour that the birthing woman is much more relaxed. I support the birthing partner to be involved to level that they feel confident with wether
that be catching the baby themselves, being in the other room or perhaps taking care of other siblings. In the antenatal period I offer six antenatal meetings to the family so that we will have a time to get to know each other. Its so important to  have a neutral calm extra set of eyes, ears and hands there just for your family in this transformational time. I believe that the role of the birthing partner is very important and I do everything I can to facilitate an optimal
environment to protect their space, support them both and meet their needs. During the antenatal period we look at any fears or misconceptions that a birth partner may have, so that they can go into the birth and early parenthood with confidence. Along with this we also develop a toolkit for the birthing partners, so they can for example build on their
massage techniques, communication methods and being look at being truly ‘present’. I also support women without birthing partners and families that choose for their partners not to be present for the birth. It’s a very individual choice.

Do Doulas support all types of birth?
Yes without a doubt! This is another common misconception that Doulas are for home births and women that are planning natural births. I have supported women in so many different circumstances- the whole spectrum- from home
water births right through to planned caesarean births and I love, value and respect each and everyone of them. I believe
that no matter how you give birth that it can be an empowering experience that you can take forward for the rest of your
life. I really enjoy that my work has such variety and such an unknown element.
What is the best thing about being a Doula?
I love the relationships the family and I build over our time together and I am always in awe of how powerful a birthing women can be. Seeing a couple become a family is incredible and so humblin

What is the worst thing about being a Doula?
The oncall period can be pretty tough going om me and my family. I am on call from 37 weeks until the baby is born. This means that I dont drink (and I love a G&T!) and I’m never more than an hour away from the family. Its a huge committment.

What advice would you give someone looking for a Doula?
Trust your gut. You want your Doula to be someone you (and your famliy) feel comfortable with, so if you are considering hiring a Doula, you might choose to interview a few before you decide. There is a Doula for everyone and they are all different!
It is worth asking what level of support they give- i.e how many meetings can you expect either side of the birth? Do they have a back up Doulas? Do they offer additional posnatal/night support? What are their fees? What experince do they have?
Most Doulas are very good value and Doula UK offer an access fundfor families on low income or benefits.

Where can I find a Doula?
You can do a local search on Doula UK and you can ask people in your community for personal reccomendations.
To find out more about Doulas please see www.doulauk.co.uk and to see more about what I do please look at my website: www.beyondbirthing.co.uk or email me on katherine@beyondbirthing.co.uk.

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