• Jemma

WTF is a Doula

What is a doula and why have one?

Whenever I tell my birth story and mention Natalie my doula I’m often greeted with quizzical looks or comments like what the hell is a doula? I always respond with the same line, “a doula is a mother for the mother”. At which point eyes are rolled or people want to know more. “She’s a knowledgeable lady that helps you at the time around childbirth. They can either be a prenatal doula, someone that is with you during labour or postnatal or all three”. I recently read a fantastic quote that sums it up perfectly, A doula isn't a superhero that flys in to save the day, they come and tie your cape so that you can do it yourself. It is recognised by the NICE guidelines that continuity of care increases positive birth outcomes, though a Doula is not medically trained and would never replace a midwife, studies have shown that by having a birth doula the likelihood of a positive birth experience is increased.

Natalie Meddings doula

Personally I had my doula mainly for child birth and to support me through labour. The first time it was because after deciding on a home birth we knew my parents wouldn’t approve and try to discourage us, so having my mum there was out of the question. Secondly (as mean as it sounds) I didn’t have complete confidence in my husband not to freak out. Though he doesn’t like to admit it, she was partly there as support and guidance for him as well as me.

The dictionary definition of a doula is: A woman, typically without formal obstetric training, who is employed to provide guidance and support to a pregnant woman during labour.

My God that underplays their role enormously. I look at them as a replacement for the lady in the village that knew everything, or for some it’s like having a sister or mother with you. Many doulas have seen and participated in loads of births, they know so many tips and tricks, they can do anything from rub your back, to making sure you are eating and drinking, helping you into positions, timing contractions, calling the midwife to driving you to hospital. But most of all to be honest just having someone next to you saying don’t worry this is all normal is so wonderfully reassuring and sadly in many circumstances a midwife isn’t able to do this and be with you throughout labour via the NHS. This can be possible with an independent midwife, but that is a separate post. The knowledge inside a doula's head astounds me, and every time I chat to one I learn something new. Who wouldn't want a person like that by their side?

Another thing you have with a doula is an advocate, you’ll have one or two meetings before hand to discuss your birth wishes and any worries then they become someone who not only supports you, but can help to empower your partner to ask questions and push for your wishes to be adhered to. They are not just for home births, or water births or even natural births. In fact I know a few who have attended c-sections, but they are your guide, your supporting arm and your rock.

Having Natalie with us was one of the best decisions we made, as she kept us both so calm, with her and Ross by my side I felt like I could cope with anything. To the extent that Ross’s version of Everley’s birth always makes people laugh as he popped to the shops and even went to get a haircut while I was in the early stages of labour (not many Dads get to say they did that). So, this is pretty different to most of our friends experiences of baby number one. We knew from our hypnobirthing and all my reading that it was key to carry on life as normal for as long as possible when labour started, but whether we would of been able to actually do that without Natalie pushing us to I’m not so sure.

Why did I choose to have Natalie with me, the second time though? You might be thinking, I’m a trained birth professional myself, I had a positive and complication free birth first time around and we were very open that we’d b