E+E Column: World Doula Week

Today marks the last day of this year’s World Doula Week and although the week is drawing to a close, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to raise awareness of the wonderful work that Doula’s do. You might be wondering what on earth I’m talking about so apologies, I’ll start from the beginning! A doula is a non-medical birth companion, someone who is hired by a pregnant mother to support her both emotionally and practically during her pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. A doula does not replace the invaluable role of a midwife but in our current climate where staff shortages in the NHS often mean an inconsistency in who you might see during your pregnancy and birth, she provides a constant. The mother is able to spend time with her throughout her pregnancy, to be able to explore any concerns she might have fully and then is guaranteed of her familiar presence at her birth.

The word doula is a greek word meaning ‘women servant or caregiver’. For me, this sums up the role. It is one of serving a woman during one of the most turbulent and exciting times in her life. Most doula’s receive training of some sort (there is an organisation called Doula UK that acknowledges several courses and has a database of doula’s for people looking to hire one) and have a good knowledge of birth physiology and often breastfeeding as well. My perspective is that doula’s are on the rise in the UK. I’m not sure I’d heard of them at all during my pregnancy with Sophia (over 6 years ago) but I definitely had while I was pregnant with Isaac and before Elijah was born, trained with Nurturing Birth to become one myself! I attended one birth which was nothing short of amazing and a real privilege to be invited to attend but, have since put my plans to serve in this role to one side whilst the kids are so small. I hope strongly that it is something I will be able to pick up again in the future.

There is evidence that shows that having a doula can mean ‘a reduced risk of caesarean birth, reduced risk of instrumental birth, reduced need for painkillers or epidurals, reduced rate of induction, shorter labour, increased parental satisfaction with the birth experiience and increased likelihood of initiatating breastfeeding and sucessfully establishing breastfeeding’. Although it is an additional expense, Doula UK have an access fund for those that can’t afford to hire a doula and I firmly believe that it is money extremely well spent. In Devon there is an increasing number of doula’s working which I think is great news for the pregnant mothers of our county! So this World Doula Week 2016, I’ll leave you with a quote from the amazing Sheila Kitzinger who exclaimed that ‘birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exult in’! Let’s not be fearful of birth but trust the process and embrace what our bodies can do.


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