Meet a...Doula

I’m thrilled to be launching a new weekly series on the blog. Mondays are now #MeetMondays, where every week a committed and passionate professional - dedicated to improving the lives of women - is showcased through a guest blog. 

 This blog series will start talking about that glorious and terrifying time in a woman's life: when you’ve found out you’re pregnant, and what next?!

I’m delighted to welcome such an articulate, thoughtful and caring individual to be the first Guest blogger. Hayley Rand is a Doula UK Recognised birth and postnatal doula,  pregnancy and postnatal massage therapist and offers private baby massage classes. When I met her I was struck by her genuine and heartfelt commitment to non-judgemental, evidence-based. woman-focused care, giving emotional and practical support wherever needed. 

In this blog Hayley gives a fascinating account as to why you might need a doula. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

Meet a doula

Why you might need one – they’re not just for giving birth

Finding out you’re pregnant is usually a happy and exciting time, but it can also feel very overwhelming.  You’re suddenly thrown into the world of pregnancy and birth; an unfamiliar world to which you hadn’t previously given much thought.  You have questions and turn to Google, where you find contradictory answers, and end up feeling even more confused.  You don’t want to seek support from family or friends, as you feel it’s too soon to share your news, and your booking appointment with the midwife isn’t until 8-12 weeks…

A birth doula can offer support even at this early stage.  From the moment you book her, she will be available to you, via email and phone, at every stage of your pregnancy.  She can signpost you to reliable sources of evidence-based information, provide emotional support and practical suggestions to help you through any pregnancy sickness and guide you through the plethora of books available.  She’ll get to know you and your partner, and over the months, you’ll build a relationship based on trust.  She’ll journey with you, as you start to educate yourself about the wonderful world of pregnancy and birth, and can share her trusted network of other local birth-workers with you.  She’ll learn what it is that you do and don’t want from the life-changing day that you meet your baby and you’ll spend time together in person, going through your birth preferences and discussing different scenarios, so that if things don’t go to plan on the day it can still be a positive and empowering experience.

During early labour, your birth doula will keep in touch and be a reassuring voice on the phone until you’re ready for her to join you at your home.  She will then be a constant supportive presence until your baby is born.  Unlike a midwife, a doula will not change shift or have other women to support simultaneously.  A doula is another person on your team; she won’t tell you what to do, but will ensure you understand what all your options are at every stage.  She can suggest comfort measures and different positions to encourage labour to progress.  As she has no medical responsibilities, her sole focus is your emotional wellbeing and physical comfort.  She might remind you of questions to ask or refer medical professionals to the wishes laid out on your birth preferences.  Your partner can only guess at how they will react to seeing you in labour.  A doula takes the pressure off, and allows them to participate at the level at which they feel comfortable. They can take breaks, knowing that they won’t be leaving you alone. They will benefit from your doula’s reassuring smiles, which will let them know that everything they are seeing is normal, something your doula has seen many times before.

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Doula support need not end with the birth of your baby - sometimes this is only the beginning.  It is often only after their baby is born, that parents really understand the value of postnatal support.  Many new parents don’t have the luxury of hands-on, retired grandparents living locally, and other family and friends are busy working or have young children of their own.  A postnatal doula can fill the gap.  If your birth didn’t go to plan, she will listen while you debrief and help you make sense of what happened. She’ll provide you with non-judgemental emotional support and sit with you while you share your concerns.  She will acknowledge your struggles and listen without agenda and without imparting her own views. Family and friends often won’t hesitate to advise you, but usually their experience is based only on what worked for their own babies and families.  Postnatal doulas have experience working with many families and recognise that what works for one mother and baby may not work for another.  A postnatal doula is there to support you as you determine what is right for you and your family and ultimately she wants to see you happy and confident and do herself out of a job!

A postnatal doula will help you to understand newborn behaviour, cues, feeding, sleep and development.  She can support you with infant feeding, baby care, safe sleeping arrangements and babywearing.  She will hold your baby while you sleep, shower, spend time with an older sibling or simply take some time for yourself.  Whilst you rest and bond with your baby, she can prepare drinks and snacks for you and help out around the house with the things that are bothering you and you just haven’t had a chance to do.  This could be washing up, emptying and loading the dishwasher, laundry and general tidying.  If you’re someone who prefers to do these things yourself, she can free you up by holding your baby or taking him/her for a walk, perhaps even running a few errands for you while she’s out.  If you need an extra pair of hands or some moral support to get out of the house for an appointment or that first time breastfeeding in public, she can be by your side. 

A doula is a single person who provides a whole host of support.  She helps emotionally and practically, as well as being a gateway to a wealth of information and experience.  If at any time you need more specialist support than she is qualified to provide, she will know to whom to signpost you.

Both birth and postnatal doulas are guided by your wants and needs and vary their support from family to family.  A doula will listen to you without judgement, when you’re feeling worried, tired or emotional.  She won’t tell you what she thinks you should do – she recognises that her personal opinion is irrelevant to you and your family – but she’ll make sure you know all your options in any given situation and suggest a few more of which you hadn’t even thought.