What it’s like to be a doula?
Meg is a Lancashire-based birth and postnatal doula. In this article, she answers some frequently asked questions and reflects upon her own practice and experiences as a doula.
What is a doula?
Doulas support women and their families during pregnancy, birth, and the first days, weeks and months after a baby is born.
"Having a doula to provide practical and emotional support during this time can help to make the journey a positive experience for everyone and allows a family to relax knowing someone is there to put them first."
Why did you become a doula?
During my first pregnancy, I fell in love with hypnobirthing. During my maternity leave, I trained to be a hypnobirthing teacher. I initially embarked upon doula training in order to enhance my skills as a hypnobirthing teacher. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’ll never do births!’. However, when an acquaintance asked me to act as her doula, I thought I’d do it once to see if it could work alongside my family. I have a vivid memory of sitting on a living room floor in awe, whilst supporting this woman as she birthed her baby. It was an incredible experience and it felt like such an honour to be in the room with her. I haven’t looked back since.
"It’s more than a job, it’s a lifestyle."
What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
My role is to empower women. I offer practical, emotional and informational support to women and their families. A midwife deals with all the medical aspects of pregnancy and birth. Anything clinical is not my remit, I don’t do physical examinations or monitor a baby’s heartbeat during labour, for example. I’m present at the birth to offer non-judgemental support to a woman and those with her.
Who do you work with?
I work with a diverse range of women and families. There isn’t a ‘typical’ person who seeks the support of a doula. There is a misconception that doulas only work with women who don’t have a partner. This is not the case. Quite often, a vital aspect of my role is supporting a woman’s birthing partner .
It’s important to address that doulas are not funded by the NHS and so, for some, working with a doula might be perceived as an expensive luxury. There are charities such as Doulas Without Borders and Birth Companions who strive to offer doula support to those who might not usually have access to our services, such as women with refugee status or within the prison system.
"The difference that investment can make to a birth experience is immeasurable."
Can you talk us through a day in the life of a doula?
Every day is different! As a birth doula, I am on call from the day a woman is 38 weeks until the moment her baby is born. This means my phone might ring in the middle of the night and I have to quickly travel to her home or the hospital. When I’m not supporting women through labour, I am often busy making antenatal or postnatal visits. During these visits, I offer personalised education and care. This can be in a variety of ways, from accompanying women to appointments, supporting with infant feeding or simply providing the space to talk. Essentially, it is my role to help a new mum as she embarks upon the journey of motherhood in whatever way I can.
What sort of relationship do you build with the women you work with?
Doulas develop a very close relationship with the women and families we support. We work with people during one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, so genuine rapport is vital. Open and honest communication is, of course, key to this relationship too. I have maintained friendships with many of the women I have worked with and have supported them during multiple pregnancies.
"For me, it really is an honour to get to know a woman and her family so closely."
What is your philosophy about birth and pregnancy?
My philosophy as a doula is founded upon my passion for the importance of individual choice. My job is to support a woman through her own unique journey – whether that be a home birth or an elective caesarean. The most fulfilling aspect of my role is knowing that a woman has been respected, supported and cared for with no judgement throughout her pregnancy and birth.
To learn more about Meg and her work as a doula, please visit her website.