- What is a doula again?
- Is that like a midwife?
- What does the word ‘doula’ mean?
- What does a doula do?
- What doesn’t a doula do?
- I have a partner, do I need a doula?
- Do doulas only go to home births?
- I’m having a cesarean, is there any point me hiring a doula?
- I was going to ask my sister/mum/aunt to be at my birth, will that be the same?
- What’s the best time to hire a doula?
1. What is a doula again?
Doulas typically provide continuous support through pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood. In a role that new mothers and families have always needed, we listen, boost confidence, and never judge. Offering flexible, practical and emotional support, we work in women’s own homes, MLUs, and hospitals.
A variety of women and families hire doulas. We work with new parents who make a diverse range of parenting choices, and we believe there is a doula out there for every woman.
While doulas are not there to change outcomes – we don’t have the power to do that – evidence demonstrates that having a doula improves outcomes for mothers and their babies, especially when it comes to mothers’ mental health.
2. Is it like a midwife?
Doulas are trained women whose strengths are holding space and emotional support. We do not offer clinical skills or give advice and recommendations, and we are not medically trained.
We believe you are the expert on your body, your baby, and your situation. We encourage you to explore your options and rights, and to use your intuition and voice.
We can work alongside medical staff as part of your multidisciplinary care, but even if you choose to birth outside this framework, we will never assume the role of a midwife. However and wherever you give birth, our support remains emotional, practical and educational.
3. What does the word ‘doula’ mean?
It is from ancient Greek, and translates to ‘a woman who serves’. That’s spot on, but the word doula gets a bit clunky, and leads to other words such as doulaed and doulaing, which never quite sounds right!
4. What does a doula do?
Doulas support women and families in all situations, who have different kinds of births and make a wide range of parenting choices. The services provided by a doula vary according to the needs of those she is working with, but generally we listen, support you to explore your rights and options to make informed decisions, and provide information, and continuous emotional and practical support.
Birth doulas provide continuous support through pregnancy, labour and birth, and the immediate postnatal time.
Postnatal doulas provide practical and emotional support in the longer term, as and when.
GMD recognise that our holistic support can be applied to situations other than the childbearing year, so please get in touch with us if there is something else you’d like to be doulaed through.
5. What doesn’t a doula do?
- judge you
- get squeamish
- need looking after
- have own expectations
- give advice or opinions
- get tired, bored, or worn out
- become emotionally involved
- take over the role of your partner
- get worried, stressed, or overwhelmed
- take care of other women simultaneously
- give medical advice or diagnose conditions
- impose personal views or own experiences
- let own 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 takes the pressure off your partner, allowing him or her to participate in the birth at their comfort level, and to enjoy it.
A doula can be as much for the partner as for the mum, if that’s what she wants. 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 going to home births, where the whole family naturally feels at ease and in control, we are needed in other settings too.
For birth hormones to flow smoothly every woman (and every female mammal) needs security, warmth, and privacy. At home these conditions are easily met, but in hospital the environment and atmosphere are very different. Your doula can advocate with you and your partner regarding your birth preferences.
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 will:
- be fully present and hold your space
- support you to make informed choices
- remind you of your rights and options
- support your birth plan and personal preferences
- share her knowledge and experience of pregnancy, birth, and normal newborn behaviour
- support your partner to support you
- stay calm and untouched by worry or excitement
- help you stay in control
- support you using the techniques you’ve chosen to prepare for your birth and welcome your baby
- be familiar with the territory of birth and maternity systems
- take photos if you like
- remind you of your power, reassure and encourage you
- won’t get tired or grumpy or squeamish
- take care of practicalities so your partner can fully focus
- help you (and others) relax by keeping adrenaline down and oxytocin up. (Both are highly contagious!)
- support you in feeding your baby
During a cesarean a doula does all of the above, plus:
- can help turn clinical waiting rooms into personalised spaces
- can keep the atmosphere one of reverence for the experience during delays. Even with a scheduled cesarean you can wait for hours, as you get bumped further down the list.
- can assist the mother through any discomfort or side effects
- can describe the birth as it progresses
- is the only person available to focus entirely on the mother’s emotional needs after the birth
- is the only person there able to care for the partner’s needs
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 that you are an individual.
9. I was going to ask my sister/mum/aunt to be at my birth, will that be the same?
Ask yourself of any potential birth partner or doula: can you relax so much around them you could fall asleep? Do you feel self conscious or inhibited near them? Will they respect and advocate for your wishes even if they don’t understand or agree? Can they be on call 24/7 for 6 weeks? Can they leave their own expectations and experiences behind, and stay with you, focusing only on your needs until a few hours after your baby is born? Are they calm and positive even when lacking sleep? How comfortable are they with silence, roaring, bodily fluids, being told what to do, and doing nothing?
Women often tell us it’s not the amount of people that’s important, but the right people. We have been to births as the only support, and others as part of a support team including family members. We are happy to work alongside anyone who you want with you, supporting them to support you.
10. What’s the best time to hire a doula?
You can book us at any point, there’s no best time. Some women require some support before getting pregnant, because of previous issues such as trauma. Some women’s birth plans change unexpectedly toward the end of pregnancy and they reach out for an extra layer of support.
We will be there for you and your partner no matter what. We don’t only attend happy births at term, we are trained to offer the same quality of support in any situation, any trimester, and in any outcome.