In celebration of World Doula Week 2019 we will be hearing all about the services Doulas offer. Next up, Gráinne will talk us through life as a Birth Doula.
"This week is world doula week and I would like to share with you a little of my world as a birth
doula. When I am asked what I do for a living and I reply I am a Doula, there is nearly always a little
pause and sometimes people respond with “You are a dealer?” Despite there being over 800
doula’s registered with doula UK and others operating outside the organisation, we are still one
of life's best kept secrets. Some people think we are only for the wealthy or famous!
My clients come from all walks of life and cultures. No family is the same, which is one of the
things I love about my job. What I can tell you about the families I support is it is not about
wealth and I have so far never been a birth doula for anyone famous.
People assume, it is only the first time Mum’s who hire doula support. Sadly, 50% of my clients
have previously had a negative birth experience so would like a doula to support them through
their pregnancy, labour and birth. I get clients through all sorts of avenues, from being stopped
in the street (I was wearing a doula UK badge), from the doula UK website, facebook,
recommendations and even was approached at a sling library. I support women no matter how
they choose to birth from planned cesareans to home births. I do not make judgements on any
decisions they make throughout the process or provide an opinion. I provide evidence and
share all the options available from the huge amounts of information available. That can be
recommending local providers such as chiropractors/reflexologists or sharing relevant birthing
books. I leave Mum and partner to decide what options work and is best for them.
I have a free initial meet up with my clients and always insist anyone else attending the birth is present. It is important we all connect and feel we can work together as a team to support Mum.
This is normally for around one hour. I encourage families to interview more than one doula as it is imperative Mum feels safe and trusts her doula.
Once hired, I immediately start working with the family, I encourage women to hire a doula early
in pregnancy as the price is the same and the family then benefit from the knowledge a doula
has of the maternity system, and can help with questions and information in pregnancy following antenatal appointments. In fact, most of my work is done antenatally. I make sure Mum is seen and heard antenatally and while birthing. We are in constant contact, following appointments,
and I signpost and provide evidence. Eg.
● Your baby is too big/small
● Your baby is breech/transverse
● You are high risk due to your age
● You cannot birth in the birth centre
● Your blood platelets are low
To empower families it is imperative they have all the information they require to make the right
decision for them and their baby.
I then meet for two antenatal sessions. Mum completes a questionnaire so I can understand if
there is anything in particular I need to focus on in my bespoke antenatal sessions.These take
place in the comfort of their home. All the couples I support have attended antenatal classes,
but they still find the sessions I provide invaluable. In my sessions some of the things we cover
are hopes and fears, the labour line, coping strategies, recovery and we put together a
personalised birth preference document. I support the birth partner by getting them involved and teaching them things they can do during labour to help Mum, and help them to understand what will happen. I give them confidence to represent Mum’s wishes and ask questions on behalf of Mum if required.
From ten days before and two weeks after the expected due date, I go on call. This means :
● I caveat arrangements with “unless I am supporting a birth”
● I stay within one hour of my home
● No alcohol
● I may work Christmas day, bank holidays, day or night
● wherever I am (including attending children's school concerts/plays/sports day) etc. I
● The family I am supporting becomes my priority, even above my own family, which at
times can be tough.
Last year I missed my own birthday celebration, but it is always an honour and privilege to be
supporting Mum’s at such an intimate moment of their lives, making memories they will never
Even Mums who have given birth say “oh do you rush off as soon as you get the call?” I remind
them how long labour and birth lasts and they laugh at how silly they’ve been. Mum keeps me
up to date with all the details of how she is getting on. Eg. contractions, the show, waters
breaking etc. Between us we decide when it is best for me to come and support. I support in the
family home first and then if birthing in hospital we all go together. Continuation of care is vital to
help Mum feel looked after, safe and secure.
I ensure the birth environment, wherever that is, is conducive to labour. I would have already
established what Mum likes and dislikes. I ensure it feels calm, safe,and is comfortable. I use
different things to help create this atmosphere. Change lighting, aromatherapy oils, moving
furniture, keeping doors closed, playing music etc.
My presence, a familiar face, who you have built a relationship with and trust, helps Mum and
Partner to feel safe, secure and calm. I use my personal knowledge of you as individuals to
gauge how best to support. Sometimes it is helping Dad to remember the massage techniques
I have taught him, or asking health professionals to not talk to Mum during a contraction, or
checking if the birth preference document has been read by those involved. I listen, hand hold,
massage, provide intimacy for couples, supply hot and cold compresses, drinking straws, lip balm, hair ties, neck pillows……. my doula birth “tricks” bag has been likened to Mary Poppins
massage, provide intimacy for couples, supply hot and cold compresses, drinking straws, lipbalm, hair ties, neck pillows……. my doula birth “tricks” bag has been likened to Mary Poppins
I am there to help with tears of fear and best of all, tears of joy. I provide confidence and
encouragement and my support is tailor made to suit you."
Would you like a positive birth experience? Contact Gráinne at www.podtopea.co.uk