“I am a Doula..”
“That’s a very honest answer…. erm what EXACTLY do you deal in?”
“Is that a bit like a hippy midwife?”
“Oh great, I need someone to make me a ring”
All the above are genuine responses to my answer when people ask me what I do. No I’m not a art/drug dealer, or a jeweller (although I used to be) and I’m definitely NOT a midwife!
So what DOES a Doula do?!
A doula is someone who supports a family during the childbearing year. Usually either as a birth companion, or postnatally. Some of the things we do are listed here.
- Provide information (Signposting)
- Help writing birth plans
- Physical touch (massage)
- Someone to trust
- Support for partner
- NON judgemental
- Practical things (shopping, drive to hospital, child care, cooking.)
- Intelligent tea drinking (I think that one deserves a blog post all to itself!)
- HOLD THE SPACE!
Not a Midwife.
The roles of Midwife and Doula may on the surface seem similar in some ways, and midwives might do some of the things listed above. But there are very distinct and important differences too.
Here are some things that Midwives do that doula definitely don’t.
- CATCH BABIES!
- Anything medical, whether diagnostic or treatment based.
- Give advice or make recommendations.
Why do I need a birth doula?
Well maybe you don’t! Not everybody will feel the need to have a doula. But for some people having a calm and confident person they know at their birth is really what they need.
Continuity of care is another concern for some. Unless you are fortunate enough to have an Independent Midwife, then your NHS midwife will have a shift pattern. No one can guarantee who will be on shift when you go into labour, and the chance are that that shift will end while you are in labour. Hiring a birth doula mean you know that there will be one familiar face regardless.
What about postnatal doulas?
In a ideal world every new parent would get all the help she needs from the people around her. In many cultures it is normal for a mother or mother-in-law to move in with the new family to support them as they begin their new lives together. This isn’t the norm in our culture, and you may not want your mother around so much! A doula can offer the kind of practical support a family need as they adjust. Things that a postnatal doula might offer are.
- Nurturing the mother
- Taking care of older children
- More intelligent tea drinking!
- Practical guidance on baby care
- Breastfeeding support
I really think we place too much emphasis on “getting back to normal” when a new baby is born. As someone who has just gone through pregnancy and birth, you will go through a massive transformation. This should not be taken lightly. I believe it is important to spend time with your newborn, to bond and establish breastfeeding, to recover from birth. There is no rush! A postnatal doula can offer you the opportunity to take that time. Unlike a maternity nurse or nanny, a doula would not be taking care of your baby for you. But empowering you to do so yourself.
If you are thinking of hiring a doula, then doulaUK is a great place to start.