Q & A on Doulas

Hanging out with Baby Jessica after her birth while Mum has some food.


  • How can you help a lady during labour?

Different Doulas fulfil the different needs of  each client, during labour this may include massage, ensuring Mum and birth partner are well fed and hydrated,  continuous support by someone you know and who knows you and your preferences which is sadly not possible in todays overstretched NHS. someone who will actively work with and support your partner to allow them to catch some sleep if they need it without you being alone, someone who has experience of birth and is practiced as remaining calm whatever is going on, an advocate , someone to take photos, someone who you can debrief with afterwards because they were there and someone who’s there for you and focussed entirely on you.

The science bit includes: reduced risk of c-section, instrumental birth, induction, reduced need for§ painkillers and epidural, shorter labour and greater liklihood of establishing breastfeeding.

“If a doula was a drug it’d be unethical to use it.”

  • Can a doula accompany a mum through all different types of labour, even a c-section? Isn’t a doulas more for home (hippie) births? (yes I’ve been asked about ‘hippie’ births: “I’m having a hospital birth and I want all the drugs in the world, I don’t want someone there telling me to think about whale music or judging me when I have an epidural.” 

I have covered lots of different types of birth, at home and in hospital.  I’ve supported parents who’ve chosen cesareans, epidural, induction,  water birth, formula feeding, breastfeeding

  • Can dads feel left out if a doula is present at a birth?


I’ve been booked by Dads as they recognise their own need for support as much as their partners I’m there to support the family unit as a whole, Dads are expected to be everything for their partners  but as a Dad said  “in the heat of the moment it is hard to remember how to help”  a Doula has a wealth of experience you can tap into which takes the pressure off especially, as another Dad said to me “when no matter how well you prepare you don’t know what you’re going to go through”.

  • What type of support do you offer in the postnatal?

This varies depending on the individual Doula and what each family needs, many Doulas have a speciality or particular training, for example my background is massage and food and I’m currently training as an integrative counsellor.

In most cases there is a lot of emotional support as the whole family is going through a time of intense upheaval and for the mother this is accompanied by the physical demands that have been placed on her body by birth and caring for a newborn. Practically there are many things Doulas do, from light domestic chores and food preparation to caring for baby while Mum sleeps or showers, Feeding support of both breast an d bottle is also important but crucially a knowledge of when to signpost or refer when necessary.

  • Do you need qualification or what type of course do you do to become a doula?

No you don’t, however if you’re a member of Doula UK you need to do a recognised training programme and their mentorship. The DUK has a local postcode search which you can find here

  • When do you usually start working with a new client ie at what stage of pregnancy/postnatal period?

Any time, but the earlier the better, to secure a booking with the Doula you want and build a relationship. However if they’re available many Doulas will take last minute bookings although this can make the antenatal process a bit rushed. There tends to be more flexibility with Post Natal work

  • Is a Doula just a posh word for a mothers help?

No a Doula may complete some practical tasks but her role is  more importantly about supporting families to become confident in their own innate parenting skills

  • Is the term ‘doula’ relatively new or have women been using Doulas for many years?

Doulas as a concept; women who understand the process of birth and are present with a mother during her birth and postnatally; are from a new thing, the term Doula was coined by an anthropologist n 1969 to describe this role both in present day and historically where woman have always supported each other through labour birth and postnattally with concept of it takes a whole village to raise a child which is just not possible in todays society. Over the last 10 years there has been a formalization of this role with training and mentorship with organisations such as DUK.

  • It is popular in the UK or more popular in other cultures?

There is a Doula presence across Europe and America, within Asian and African countries the role filled by a Doula is widespread but as an ingrained cultural norm the ‘professionalization of the process hasn’t happened in the same way. Interestingly it was the Chinese mother of one client who paid for a block of postnatal support for her daughter because she was unable to fulfil the role herself but felt this was an essential part of the postnatal period.

  • Are most Doulas mums themselves?

A lot are but not all, each Doula is different and that means there is a Doula suited to every woman.

  • A Doula sounds like the ultimate middleclass accessory, I won’t be able to afford that – aren’t they really expensive?

I have worked with women in refuge, single mums living on benefit, professional couples, all types of families. There is some price variation between Doulas and within that many Doulas are happy to be flexible with things like instalments or skills swops, I worked for a lovely electrician who did some rewiring for me in exchange for postnatal work. There is also the Doula Access fund which some families would be eligible for and means that you don’t have to pay anything, details on the DUK website here.

How we give birth matters – not just in the months afterwards, but research is increasingly showing for the rest of our both ours and our childens lives. I’ve had Grandmothers contact me for their daughters and I’ve ended up counselling them about their birth experiences which were 50 or 60 years ago but they can still remember every detail.

According to brides magazine, on average people spend £24,000 on a wedding day  one day celebrating their marriage? But this doesn’t effect how your marriage is for the rest of your life. How you birth does, physically and emotionally and while a pram may cost the equivalent of a Doula, your babies wellbeing is not in any way effected but doulas help create happy, confident Mums and this is the most profound effect on a child into adulthood.

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