This is a very good question to be asking!
I honestly believe that every family that is expecting a new addition or has a newborn at home will benefit from having support from a doula. Read on to find out why.
Research on the benefits of doula care show: an increase in parents’ satisfaction with their birthing experience; increased breastfeeding initiation rates and success; reduced labour length; reduced rates of need for pain relief and epidurals; reduced rates of induction; reduced caesarean rates and reduced depressive symptoms in parents. But why?
Continuity of care from a supportive and caring person ensures that parents feel heard, understood and supported in their needs and wishes. This is what leads to the outcomes listed above. A doula cannot promise you a certain type of birth, because no one can know the path of your birth, but they can promise to be alongside you. Doulas are sources of knowledge and strength and they will share this with you, so that you too feel informed and strong. Your doula should be a point of reference on your journey, a resource and an advocate who allows you to be in charge.
But I Will Have A Midwife, So Why A Doula Too?
Doulas complement your midwifery care. Doulas also love midwives! I have high respect for midwifery, but also a realistic understanding of the pressures midwives face. Midwives and doulas can provide a wonderful conbination of care and support together, offering you an amazing team.
Midwives provide midwifery care to pregnant, birthing and postnatal parents. In the UK, the majority of this care is provided by the NHS and some people choose an independent midwife. Midwives provide medical care as well as education and support. A doula does not provide any medical care, instead they provide emotional, educational and practical support.
You will see midwives throughout your pregnancy and they will provide your care during labour and birth. Some people, depending on location and other factors, may see the same midwife throughout their pregnancy. If you choose a homebirth then you may have met some of the homebirth team before your labour and it is lovely if a midwife you have already met is on call when you go into labour. If you labour and birth in a hospital or birth centre then you usually won’t have met the midwife yet who cares for you there. NHS midwives work set work patterns, usually 12 hour shifts, so your midwives may change shifts at some point during your labour and birth care.
When you choose to have a doula, you get to arrange an initial ‘interview’ visit with a few doulas and choose the one who suits you best. Then you will see the same doula at all of our visits and they will be on call for your birth! Your doula can focus on supporting you with the emotional aspects of your journey, the planning and talking through all your options, ensuring you feel heard and that you know your rights and choices, and spending time getting to know you. Due to this, your doula will have a good understanding of what is important to you and can support you in advocating for these things.
The reality is that midwives are usually under pressure from the high demands of the system in which they work and a lack of time. They have a lot of responsibility in providing good quality midwifery care, ensuring they are documenting all of their care and supporting the needs of the whole team they are working in. I know this because of my experience of training and working as a midwife. Many midwives wish they could provide continuity of care to families, but the current constraints of the NHS limit this option. Following the Better Births review and implementation plan, there are a number of pilot projects rolling out to provide continuity of care, so I hope we will see positive change in this direction in the future.
What About Your Partner and Children?
You may have a partner or someone else, a family member or friend, as your birth partner. That is wonderful! They can be invaluable support to you and it can be a very special experience for them. A doula is there to support the whole team: you, your birth partner(s), your other children, your midwives and other birth professionals.
During pregnancy, I will be meeting with you a number of times and it is important that I meet your birth partner(s) and children too. They can be involved in exploring your options and making plans. If you have a partner, this is a momentous life experience for them too and they also gain much benefit from doula support! I have materials to help explain birth to children and will happily involve them too.
During labour I will be a part of your support team. This means supporting your loved ones, so that together we can support you. Research shows that fathers and partners of birthing parents can feel lost, overwhelmed and unsure of their role in birth. A doula can explore this with both of you and support putting plans in place to make your experience positive for everyone.
Adjusting to life with a newborn has an impact on the whole family! Having a doula supports that transition, both with planning for the changes, preparing for the new arrival and in practical tasks postnatally. My Postnatal Doula page explores this more.
Still unsure of whether a doula is for you?
Get in touch and I can help answer your questions! If after some emails or a phone conversation you would like to meet to explore if I might be the right doula for you, I offer a free initial visit. In this 45 minutes – 1 hour we can answer each other’s questions and get to know each other a little. It is always a good idea to arrange this kind of conversation with a few doulas, so you know you have made the right choice for you and your family.