Partners especially can be reluctant
First there's the money side of it. Costs vary depending on location, experience and what each doula offers, but it's not insignificant. Clients can expect to pay anything between £600 and £2,000, although a student doula may charge less.
But there's often something else too: a birth partner's reluctance to feel like their role is somehow usurped. Unless you're going for a free birth, there will be at least one midwife present, with the possibility of other characters coming and going. Will one more just add to the throng and make the partner feel redundant?
In fact the opposite is true
Doulas should 'hold' the space - protecting your privacy and limiting the number of people in the room. They are also wonderful advocates of your wishes, which will have been discussed in advance.
But above all they lend confidence. A good doula shouldn't actually need to 'do' very much - ideally knitting silently in the corner. But they can be an incredibly reassuring presence if you need them, able to step in with massage, reflexology, professional advice and encouragement. And yes, to give your partner a chance to pop out and take a breather every now and then. It's guaranteed - your partner will end up appreciating her just as much as you do.
Research shows that Doulas can significantly improve birth outcomes
There is evidence to show that having a doula can mean:
Reduced risk of Caesarean birth
Reduced risk of instrumental birth
Reduced need for painkillers or epidural during birth
Reduced rate of induction of labour
Increased parental satisfaction with the birth experience
Increased likelihood of initiating breastfeeding
Increased likelihood of successfully establishing breastfeeding & breastfeeding at 6 weeks
Brigstocke S. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 24, no 2, 2014, pp 157-160
Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub5
So how to choose a doula?? Look no further:
1. Find a doula you 'click' with. There's nothing worse than feeling like you have to entertain, mollycoddle or impress your doula in the middle of labour. Instead, you should feel totally comfortable with this woman. One of the delights of having a doula is building a close and continuous relationship before, during and after the birth, so getting on is absolutely fundamental.
2. Go local. Doulas are often happy to travel, especially in rural areas, but you need to know your doula will arrive before your baby! Each individual will be able to advise on this, but even the best doula is no good if they aren't actually there.
3. If you are doing some birth preparation, make sure your doula is sympathetic to it. For example, if you are using the Natal Hypnotherapy tracks, a doula could use the same music and language during her pre-natal relaxation sessions. Ensuring everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet will reinforce the powerful messages and affirmations.
4. Ask for references. And, if possible, speak to past clients. Simply by talking to other women about their experiences can help cement your decision to employ a doula and pinpoint exactly what it is you're looking for.
5. Choose a package that works for you. Many doulas offer a host of other pre and post-natal services that can be tailored to your needs. They can help with a myriad of emotional or physical issues, from phobias to breastfeeding and everything in-between. Cherry-pick what's right for you.
Where should I start?
The best place to start in the UK is to go to Doula UK which is the leading organisation for doulas in the UK, with a network almost 700 doulas.
The 5 most important things to help you prepare for birth - apart from having a doula :)
If you want to find out what they are and how you can achieve them then click here for my mini training on birth preparation. This is a recording of a webinar I did last week so you won't be able to join in the questions and chat function. However you will still get loads of great top tips to help you prepare.