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The Benefits of Hiring a Doula - Guest Blog

Categories: Parenting, birth, homebirth, doula, hypnobirthing
Tags: natural birth, hypnobirth, homebirth, hypnobirthing, doula

My blog today is written by the lovely Kimberley Boyd, doula, hypnobirth instructor and all round birthing womens champion! We connected when I moved up to Lincolnshire and have worked together on a few things. I am an absolutely massive advocate of hiring a birth doula, my eldest's birth while my husband and I were informed, we were coerced during birth and have quite a traumatic birthing experience. With the births of our second and third babies we hired a doula and in all honesty the difference was amazing, knowing we had someone there to support us, fight our corner if needed and protect our birth space was invaluable. That's my 2 pence worth so I'll now pass on to Kimberley the expert...

You may have heard the word 'Doula' before, (maybe it's a totally new discovery for you) but a lot of people are still unsure of what a doula is and does.

A doula is someone (usually a woman) who is a trained professional providing emotional, physical and educational support to women/birthing people and their families before, during and after the birth of their baby. She is not medically trained and does not replace your midwives and doctors or work for the NHS but is hired independently by the woman/couple. She does not advise or tell you what to do but can support you to find good evidence-based information to enable you to make your own informed decisions on what is right for you and your family at each stage of your journey.

The service doulas offer can vary greatly between each client she works with and their individual needs. Some doulas work just as birth support, some just as postnatal support and some offer a complete package of support for all stages. A lot of doulas come with a wealth of knowledge and other qualifications such as hypnobirthing/antenatal education, aromatherapy, pregnancy yoga/massage, baby yoga/massage and mental health training.

A birth doula supports all kinds of birth at home, in birth centres and consultant led hospitals. From waterbirth to caesarean birth and everything in between, there is no one way to birth and no agenda or criteria from the doula. Her aim is to enable you to have a more positive birth experience and get the best outcome for you - which is different for every woman/birthing person. She provides continuous support for the woman (and their birth partners) throughout the pregnancy with various meetings, helping prepare the couple for the birth and exploring all of their options, talking through any fears and directing to information/services to support the pregnancy all while building a trusting relationship. She is then with them through your whole labour and the immediate postnatal time. She offers many comfort measures to the woman and is a guide on your path to birth, she holds and protects your space, she empowers and comforts, massages and holds, reassures and encourages you all while explaining events and sharing information with your birth partners to support them too. Following the birth she can assist in the intial bonding with your baby, help initiate breastfeeding and admiring the amazing work you have just done in bringing your baby into the world. To be in the presence of this is an absolute honour and priviledge. A sacred space to be invited into and treasured always.

The presence of a birth doula has shown huge benefits towards a more positive birth experience...

Women cared for during labour by a birth doula compared to those received standard care were:

  • 26% less likely to give birth by caesarean
  • 41% less likely to give birth with ventouse or forceps
  • 28% less likely to use any analgesia or anaesthetic
  • 33% less likely to be dissatisfied or negatively rate their birth experience

Postnatally a doula supports the family in the early weeks/months following the birth of a baby. The "Fourth Trimester," the term given to the period of transition from womb to world for your baby and recovery from birth for the woman - up to 12weeks postpartum. She serves you in whatever way you need, just as with the birth, she is led by you and meets the needs of each individual client differently, the length of time she supports a family may vary also.

Some things a postnatal doula may be able to provide to you is someone to talk to, a doula is a good listener and holds space for you to be heard and express any worries you have. She is a guide in your new role as parents, offering practical support in all parenting tasks.She can help around the house to enable you to rest and recover and focus on your baby. She is usually trained in breastfeeding support and can troubleshoot and encourage/reassure you on your breastfeeding journey. A doula will have strong links with other local services and professionals in your area too for signposting to when needed/requested. As always she provides evidence-based information for the parents to make their own informed decisions around parenting and encourage you to do things your way, never telling you how you should be doing things.

Unlike a maternity nurse, the doula is not there to care for the baby for you all the time but to support you to be the parent you want to be and to care for you.

Having a postnatal doula has been proven to lower rates of postnatal anxiety/depression and improve rates of initiating and establishing breastfeeding.

I genuinely believe that every woman/family can benefit from having a birth and/or postnatal doula to support you through one of your biggest life changing events.

"Whenever and however you give birth, your experiences will impact your emotions, your mind, your body and your spirit for the rest of your life" - Ina May Gaskin

Value yourself, value your birth and value your experiences, you are worth it and you will thank yourself for years to come that you did everything you could to ensure you had a positive birth experience.

Kimberley x