Doulas – The Debate
Pregnancy and birth can be a time of anxiety for both parents, whether they are expecting their first or fifth child – and, whilst both mum and dad can gain encouragement and support from one another, there is also the option of employing the services of outside support in the form of a Doula.
A Doula (from the Greek, meaning ‘caregiver’) is, according to doula.org.uk, an “experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth”.
Support is not carried out from a medical perspective – that is the job of a midwife, who has undergone extensive training. A Doula – who may or may not have had any training for the role – is purely a support aid, a person who is able to offer support and advice on a variety of aspects. Before childbirth, the Doula will meet with the parents and discuss a birth plan and other requirements that the mother and/or father wish to have during the birth of their child. During the childbirth, the Doula provides support and encouragement, as well as advice on breathing techniques and positioning. After childbirth a doula will make a number of visits (depending on how long she has been employed) to help the new mother settle at home with her baby.
But is a Doula a worthwhile addition to the pregnancy experience? And – with costs often ranging into hundreds of pounds – are they worth it? The following represents both sides of the argument.
Zoe Hendricks, http://www.workclever.co.uk/, mother of two sons aged 10 and 5
“My doula had recently qualified and needed to attend her first 3 births to get official sign off, so in terms of costs we agreed to cover her travel expenses which made this very affordable.
I was very clear with what I wanted from the service, which was to stay at home as long as possible. I think secretly I wanted a home birth, which horrified my husband – so was never an option. Our doula was the compromise. If there was a negative aspect to this experience, it would perhaps be the buy-in I needed from my husband, who was an amazing birth partner, supportive and irreplaceable. For me, it was all about having someone around to support both of us in my quest to stay at home until the very last minute and avoid the experience we had previously. Wendy visited us and my husband had the opportunity to ask all the questions he needed and he agreed that if it was important to me, we should do it.
On the day of the birth I cannot remember much about Wendy being there. It was my husband I wanted and needed next to me. Wendy stayed in the background whilst I laboured and at those worrying ‘should we go to hospital now…?’ moments when confidence faltered, she was supportive and assured us that it was up to us. She was unobtrusive, calm and detached from the emotional element, which made me feel more secure to stay at home for longer.
I cannot say enough good things about my doula experience and would always encourage anyone considering to go for it!”
Ben Wakeling, http://goodbyepertbreasts.com/, father of two boys aged 4 and 2, and expecting a third child in August
“Employing a doula has never crossed our minds during either of my wife’s previous pregnancies, and this time has been no different. Firstly, we would be unable to meet the cost, which – in our opinion – could be put towards longer lasting and more worthwhile endeavours, such as equipment and food. From a personal – and perhaps selfish – perspective, I struggle to see what a doula can offer that I can’t. I know my wife better than anyone, and we have already decided on our birth plan. I know what my wife likes during labour – which usually involves me sitting a few feet away from her! She hates people touching her whilst she is in pain, and finds it more beneficial to focus her mind on the task at hand instead of listening to encouragement from others. If she needs any help with positioning techniques, the midwife is always on hand to provide advice.
I’m not saying that a doula is a waste of time. For first-time parents, and perhaps single parents who maybe need a bit of extra support, a doula would certainly be something to consider. But, for us, it was never an option.”
What do you think about Doulas? Please leave us a comment with why you would or wouldn’t consider hiring one.