Last week was world doula week so I thought I'd take the opportunity to sum up all the things we were talking about & make this blog a one stop doula blog. I'll discuss what doulas do, how to find one & how they can help during pregnancy, labour & postnatally.
So, as the great Maria Von Trapp said 'let's start at the very beginning!'
What do doulas do?
Well you may have heard of doulas from episodes of The Gilmore Girls or even Family Guy but in a nutshell a Doula provides continuous emotional, physical & informational support to women & birthing people before, during & after birth.
Doulas are birth & postnatal supporters, someone who you can have with you during your birth or just after you've had your baby. Having a doula is statistically proven to improve your birth experience & having one with you during birth:
-reduces the need for painkillers or epidural during birth
-reduces the rate of induction of labour
-reduces the rate of cesarean birth
-increases your chances of a shorter labour
Doulas are really good at finding ways to help you get the most positive experience as you step into parenthood.
Doulas are just useful at your actual birth right?
Actually a huge amount of work that doulas do happens when you're pregnant. We work with you during antenatal sessions to get to know you better & also to help you prepare for birth. Some doulas will even offer extra services like hypnobirthing & reflexology (like me!) as a part of their antenatal support.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you get that a continuity of carer that is sorely missing at the moment in maternity care. We spend a nice lot of time with you in the run up to birth, so you feel comfortable with us & know there is a calming familiar presence in the birth space with you when you go into labour.
We can prepare you for birth, with knowledge about how your body works, what to expect & we'll even help you write your birth plan. This means that when you come to labour itself, you're informed & confident about what happens. You have someone you know, who knows about birth who can bridge the gap between your midwife & you, but we know what you like because we've worked it through with you during your pregnancy.
How do doulas help during labour & birth?
We can do loads & loads but the most important thing to remember is that it all depends on what you want. That is the great thing about doulas, there is a doula out there for everyone. You choose the person you feel most comfortable & who has the skill set you need in your birthing space. Practically we can provide comfort measures such as massage, appearing with a hot water bottle or drink, helping you to the toilet, making sure your playlist is running the way you like, breathing with you, setting up a birth pool if you're birthing at home or simply holding the space. We also support your partner so they can support you & advocate for you if you need us to. It's important to mention what doulas don't do during labour too. We aren't medically trained so we don't do anything that your midwives do. We don't monitor you or the baby, we don't make decisions for you about your care & we don't influence your decisions.
What about my partner, won't they feel left out?
I totally get it, having a doula at your birth may seem like a bit of an alien idea & I've lost track of the people I've supported who have said 'we want it to be just us'. This is completely your choice but a doula is never there to get in the way of you & your partner. Once we have got to know you both, we work together as a team & doulas know that partners are the only people who know you the best, so we are also there to support them so they can support you.
In fact, knowing that there is someone else there who you know & trust can support you, means a little bit of pressure is taken off your partner.
They can go to the toilet, get a drink or snack or even sleep for a bit, knowing that the doula, who you trust, has got your back.
We are also there as a sounding board for your partner if they need to help make a decision about your care. While we aren't able to give medical advice we can give information so you are better able to make informed decisions about your care.
Does having a doula improve your chances of breastfeeding?
Here are some lovely stats from Doula UK. In their annual 2020 survey of members itshowed of those who had employed a doula for their birth, 92% established breastfeeding. Further down the line, those who employed a postnatal doula 80% were still breastfeeding at the last visit (average length of postnatal contract is about 6 weeks).
What are breastfeeding rates like without a doula?
The last UK wide lactation survey was held in 2010, which showed that initial breastfeeding rates were 81%, although many trusts are significantly lower than this. However beyond that, at 6 weeks the rates of exclusive breastfeeding plummeted to 24%! That's quite a difference. It's certainly the case that if you have a doula & you want to breastfeed, they will be the best cheerleader & supporter. Having someone to hold your hand while you get established can make a huge difference. Some doulas are even certified lactation consultants.
What about postnatally?
Postnatal Doulas actually take care of you, the person who has had the baby. We are different from nannies in that we are there to help support you so that you can get on with the business of caring for your new baby. While you're dealing with healing, feeding, sleep deprivation & the huge shift into being a parent, a postnatal doula will be there to take care of the day to day bits. We pick up the slack so you don't need to worry.
What does this mean practically?
Lots of different things! We can come & cook for you so you have plenty of energy for breastfeeding. We can help around the house so you don't have to worry about chores. We can listen to your birth story over a cup of tea & some toast. We provide breastfeeding support & as I mentioned before, 80% of those families who had a postnatal doula were still breastfeeding at their final visit. If you're happy for us to, we can hold the baby while you catch up on sleep too.
We aren't very good in this country at really valuing the work that new parents do & getting to grips with life with a new baby needs support.
Postnatal doulas can fill that gap. We are also not related to you, so you'll get lots of evidence based information & we will never influence you or judge you for your choices.
So, if you are interested in hiring a doula for your birth or postnatal period, have a little explore of my site. You can even book a free 30 minute chat to discuss your needs & if I'm not the doula for you, then you can find lots of brilliant doulas on the Doula UK website HERE.
What do you think about having a doula? Let me know in the comments.