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Doula FAQ

What is a doula?

A doula is a professional supporter of mothers around the natal period. Doulas are independent, working directly for the family. Doulas are not medical professionals (although some provide complimentary therapies as an aside), but provide emotional and practical support.

We are most widely known as knowledgeable and experienced birth partners, however doulas also provide information and support during and after pregnancy. The work of a doula is often described as "mothering the mother", we are there to help the mother to adjust to her upcoming transition, to provide information to help her plan her birth, and to gain confidence in her new role after the birth of the baby. Doula's aren't just for mothers either, we also support partners, or other children, wherever we are needed.

Doulas support the mother's wishes, and will not give advice or make judgements on their choices. 

Imagine an experienced female friend or relative, who supports a new mother through birth and the early days through her newborn. Add in some up-to-date training and an ethos of supporting the mother's choices without judgement or criticism, and that's pretty much what a doula does.

This video is a short introduction to doulas.

This longer video explains the origins and benefits of doulas in modern birthing practice.

Why do I need a doula?

A doula is a reliable, knowledgeable and experienced birth supporter who will create a calm, emotionally safe environment allowing you to focus on the birth and have faith in your body. A doula will help you to make informed choices, and support the choices that are right for you. Your birth doula will be at your side for the duration of your labour (unless you decide otherwise), there are no restrictions on when she will attend and no shift changes. You choose your doula, and forge a relationship with her during your pregnancy. As a second birth partner, your doula can stay with you while your partner takes a break, or take care of your older children so your partner can focus on you. A postnatal doula can take over your household responsibilities, leaving you to rest and bond with your new baby. Traditionally the role of the doula was that of a family matriarch with professionals attending in the absence of local extended family, however more recently doulas have become more highly skilled and able to offer a wider range of services.

The presence of a doula at births is proven to improve the outcome for mother and child. Research by Klaus Kennel and Klaus (Mothering the Mother, 1993)  showed incidence of caesarean section reduced by 50%, length of labour by 25%, use of synthetic oxytocin (to accelerate labour) by 40% and use of forceps by 30% when a doula was present at the birth. Women also needed less pain medication (narcotics reduced by 30% and epidurals by 60%) and babies had less health problems at birth and 6 weeks after birth!

Every family employs a doula for their own reasons, but some common examples include:

  • Being in shared midwife care and not being sure they will have met their midwife.
  • Being concerned about changes of shift during labour and wanting continuity.
  • Wanting an extra "pair of hands" to care for older children during birth.
  • Wanting a second birth partner to allow their partner to rest during a long labour.
  • A "high risk" pregnancy where the parents want to avoid unnecessary medical interventions.
  • Wanting experienced support in implementing an unconventional birth plan.
  • Partner working away and being unsure if they can attend the birth.
  • Single mothers, families where the partner does not wish to attend the birth, or cannot due to cultural/religious reasons.
  • Wanting a female partner when there is no friend or relative to fulfil the role, or where the mother would feel more comfortable with a non-judgemental "outsider".
  • Multiples where the mother requires extra support with the newborns.
  • Lacking confidence in feeding and handling newborns.
  • Wanting extra support while the mother recovers postnatally.

What regions does Starfall Doula cover?

I'm based in Glastonbury, Somerset, and would generally work within an hour's drive. I will consider work slightly further afield, but have to be sensibly limited to ensure I can get to a labouring client in good time.

Can I still have my partner at the birth if I employ a doula?

Absolutely. Part of the work of a doula is to prepare lay birth supporters, partners, sisters, mothers or friends of the mother to be, and enable them to give their best support to the labouring mother. Hospitals usually allow only 2 birth supporters in delivery rooms, and one in theatres. If you have a home birth you can have as many people there as you are comfortable with!

Do you only support natural/home births?

My purpose is to enable you in your own, informed birth choices. Just as pressuring a woman to have an induction she doesn't want takes away her power, so does pressuring her to birth at home if she would feel more comfortable in hospital. As a doula I will support all of the parents' genuine decisions without judgement. I can provide balanced information about medications and interventions, as well as offering natural alternatives. Most of all, my job is to enable a positive, fulfilling birth experience, wherever that takes place by whatever means.

What can a doula do if I have a caesarean birth?

If you have an elective caesarean, a doula can help you to prepare, just as she would if you were planning any other kind of birth. Elective caesareans can still have a birth plan, and a doula can give you ideas to help you make your experience as fulfilling as possible. 

In an emergency situation a doula will make sure that as much of your birth intentions as possible are adhered to in the theatre environment. The care of a doula can soothe fretful family members and her experience and knowledge can help parents understand and come to terms with the changing situation.

A doula can accompany you into theatre if that is your wish, she can support you and your family during recovery. Mums who have had a caesarean birth also really benefit from the help of a postnatal doula, who can help with feeding and care of the baby, light housework and care of older siblings while they recover from surgery.

How do I go about employing a doula?

You can book your doula at any stage in your pregnancy. Some people like to book early to be sure their preferred doula will be available (most doulas only take on one family at a time, and are "on call" exclusively for 4 weeks around your due date). It is advisable to book your doula at least a few weeks in advance of your due date so that you have the opportunity to get to know each other and have your full complement of ante natal visits. However it is not unheard of for a birth doula to be booked at the last minute (often when there is a change of plan, or unforeseen complications) and a postnatal doula can be booked whenever she is needed (some families book a postnatal doula as a gift to the mother upon the birth of the child).

A good place to start looking is Doula UK's Find a Doula resource. It is entirely legal for a doula to practice without registering with an official body (or even take any training), however Doula UK is a voluntary body that vets all their doulas in terms of qualifications and experience, all trainees are mentored and professional development is supported.

There are also many very good doulas operating outside of Doula UK, who you may find through recommendations. 

Once you have found some doulas in your area, you should check out their bio and/or website and if you like the sound of them, get in touch via email or phone and arrange an interview. A good doula will recommend that you interview a few doulas to make sure you employ someone you think you can really get on with. 

There is a lot of useful information about interviewing and choosing a doula on the Doula UK website. 

What if I want a doula, but can't afford one?

Doula UK have an access fund available for families that need a doula but do not have the means to pay. The fund covers the doula's expenses, but the doula would donate her time, so you should discuss your needs with local doulas. Mentored doulas are often keen to help, as it enables them to build up the experience they need to gain recognised status.

Where did the name "Starfall Doula" come from?

My practice is named for my first son, who came into the world during a meteor shower.