1. What is a doula again?

Doulas provide continuous support for the whole family through pregnancy, birth and the early days of parenthood. Filling a role that new mothers and families have always needed, we are there to listen, give confidence and not judge. Offering flexible, practical and emotional support we work in women’s own homes as well as in hospitals throughout the UK.

A wide variety of women and families (from different communities, with different needs and planning all kinds of birth) hire doulas. We work with new parents who make a diverse range of parenting choices and believe there is a doula out there for every woman.

While doulas are not there to change outcomes there is growing evidence that having a doula brings a number of tangible benefits. From reducing intervention rates, shortening labour and improving the condition of babies at birth. While this research is important, it’s the less tangible benefits of having a non-judgemental companion during a life-altering event that most women remember and value.

2. Is it like a midwife?

Doulas are usually experienced women who have completed some basic training. We do not offer clinical skills and are not medically trained.

Doulas do not take a clinical role and work alongside midwives and doctors. They do not advise, but can support a woman to find balanced information to make informed decisions about her maternity care.

3. What does the word  ‘doula’ mean?

It is from the Ancient Greek, meaning ‘woman servant’.

4. What does a doula do?

Doulas support women and families in all kinds of situations, who have different kinds of births and make a wide range of parenting choices. The services offered by a doula vary greatly according to the needs of the women, couple or family that she is working with.

Birth doulas provide continuous support, for women and couples, through pregnancy, labour and birth and the immediate postnatal time.

5. What doesn’t a doula do?

  • judge you
  • change shifts
  • need looking after
  • get worried or stressed
  • give advice or opinions
  • supercede medical staff
  • get tired or worn out easily
  • become emotionally involved
  • take over the role of your partner
  • assert personal views or experiences
  • take care of other women simultaneously
  • give medical advice or diagnose conditions
  • let their personal values or biases get in the way of caring for you

6. I have a partner, do I need a doula?

You don’t need a doula, but you deserve one, and so does your partner.

Becoming a parent (even if not for the first time) is a huge event. Having a doula present takes the pressure off your partner, allowing him or her to participate at their comfort level, and to enjoy the birth.

Hiring a doula can be as much for the partner as for the mum. Doulas mother the mother and mother the father.

Doulas do not get in the way, in fact, couples report that hiring a doula enhanced the feeling of intimacy between them during the birth.

7. Do doulas only go to home births?

Not at all. As much as we love a cosy home birth, we are needed in other situations too.

In order for the hormones responsible for birth to be effective the woman needs to feel secure, warm, and private. At home these conditions are easily met, but in hospital the environment and atmosphere often need tweaking. A doula can be your advocate regarding your birth preferences, or can support your partner to be.

It is often said that birth is safe when the woman feels safe, so have a think about what you need in order to feel safe.

8. I’m having a cesarean, is there any point me hiring a doula?

Absolutely! During any birth a doula:

  • is present and holds space for the upcoming birth
  • ​is your advocate regarding your birth plan and personal preferences
  • will share with you her knowledge of pregnancy and birth ​
  • will support your partner to participate in the birth as much as they want to
  • will remain calm and untouched by worries or excitement, which in turn helps you stay in control
  • supports you using the techniques you’ve chosen to prepare for your birth and welcome your baby
  • is familiar with the territory of birth, and knows what to expect in various situations
  • can take photos
  • reminds you of your power, reassures and encourages you and your partner when necessary, runs errands, won’t get tired or grumpy or squeamish, takes care of the practicalities so the partner can focus entirely on the mother
  • keeps you relaxed and keeps everyone in the birthspace relaxed by keeping adrenaline down and oxytocin up. (Both are highly contagious!)

During a cesarean a doula does all of the above, plus:

  • can turn clinical-looking waiting rooms into beautiful, intimate spaces for the couple while they wait
  • can keep the atmosphere one of reverence for their experience throughout any delays (Even with a scheduled cesarean you can end up waiting for hours, as the emergencies bump you further down the list.)
  • can assist​ the mother through the discomfort​ of needles, and the side effects of the anaesthesia ​
  • can describe the surgery as it progresses
  • ​is the only person available to focus entirely on the mother’s emotional state​ after the birth​
  • ​is the only person in the room able to care for the father’s needs​
  • <span>will stay with the mother in the 45 minutes or so after the birth, when the father usually goes with the baby to another room, keeping her calm and involved​ in the process​, and ​communicating with the father and staff to bring back photos and news of the baby.

However you are planning to give birth, you deserve to have someone in your corner who will not judge, who will listen, who has your back no matter what, and who understands what you are going through.

9. I was going to ask my sister/mum/aunt to be at my birth, will that be the same?

Ask  yourself: can you relax so much around that person that you could fall asleep? Do you feel self conscious when you’re with them? Can they respect and advocate for your wishes even if they disagree? Can they drop everything to be by your side as soon as you think labour might be starting? Can they leave their own lives at the door and stay with you, focusing only on you and your partner until after the baby’s born? Can they stay calm and positive even when lacking sleep? Are they comfortable with silence (and roaring!)?

Doulaing is something we all used to do for each other, but now with so many family members in work, it can be challenging to find someone suitable who can also be on standby for five weeks, or longer!

If you are considering hiring a doula ask around for recommendations, go on ‘Find a doula’ on Doula UK, and search the Nurturing Birth Directory, and interview any you have a good feeling about.

Parents, friends, and relatives are often happy to contribute toward the cost of a doula. There are vouchers available on the Doula UK website for this reason. There are other ways to spread the cost of hiring a doula.

It’s an incredibly important day, and you deserve to get the very best of it.

10. Do I need to wait until I’m twelve weeks’ pregnant to hire a doula?

Not at all. You can hire us at any point, even before you get pregnant, if that’s what you want. We will be there for you and your partner no matter what. We are trained to offer the same quality of support in any situation, any trimester, and in any outcome.