Childbirth is NOT like in the movies, the water’s break, woman clutches belly, baby born! It’s a little bit more to it than that! The other good news is that it is nowhere as dangerous or messy as it is portrayed; in fact for someone with a low-risk pregnancy, giving birth is more than 99% safe. So why would you pay for a complete stranger to come along to the most special day of your life?
I meet many couples where both the woman and her partner are very keen on having a doula support them and they fully understand the concept and role of the doula. Occasionally though, I meet a partner who is showing me that he is not quite convinced why he should pay someone to do a job, which to him, seems pretty straight forward – woman goes into labour, we go to hospital where someone will look after her, I stay by her side and the baby is born. If it was only that easy, which of course, it is at times but there are a number of scenarios that can play out during labour and birth, actually too many to mention, that would be a lot easier if you had a doula with you.
Firstly, to give birth to your baby, especially your first, usually involves a number of hours of early labour, the part which can be the toughest for women but also the part when by hospital measures, the woman is not classed to be in labour which means it is best to stay at home. If you arrive at hospital in this latent phase, you are very likely to be sent back home again. Now I’m sure there will have been a reason why the decision was made to go to hospital, perhaps it had been a long time since contractions started, perhaps the woman in labour was starting to make a lot of noises and perhaps as the only birth partner, you felt a bit alone and worried. This is when having a doula makes a real difference. A doula will be familiar with the process of labour, comfortable with the noises and behaviour of the woman in labour and she can reassure you that what is happening is absolutely normal. This will make you feel more relaxed, which means you will produce less adrenaline which will, in fact, make the birth progress better and faster. A woman in labour needs calm, confident people around her so that she can release the hormones needed to birth her baby, mainly oxytocin, AKA the love hormone. So, this usually means you will arrive at hospital in labour and in a relaxed and calm manner. If for some reason, you were still sent home, at least you would have your doula come with you and not have to return on your own to continue feeling unsure how to support the birthing woman.
Secondly, hospitals can be funny places and actually not the best place to have a baby but if you decided against a home birth, this is where you will be. In hospitals they have many protocols and clinical guidelines, which mean the staff have set rules which they would like to follow. These rules might be based on evidence based research or on peer views and often it can feel like these rules are set in stone and you must do what they tell you. A doula would have informed you in the antenatal sessions that you would have had with her about all your choices and options so that you can make informed choices on the day of the birth of your baby. The doula is there to help you ask the right questions, ensure you have all the information you need and to know that your voice is important and valid. After many hours of labour and if interventions are looming, it is good to be able to discuss them with someone that you already know and trust as you will have met with your doula a few times before the birth and built up a relationship with her. Sometimes all you need is some time to get your head around what is presently ahead of you and the doula will do her best to ensure you get this.
The third and last thing to consider is the advantage of having an extra pair of experienced hands as well as someone there that can give you, the partner, a break if you need one. There are not many husbands or partners that want to leave the woman they love in labour to go and get something to eat, take a restroom break or just go out to get some fresh air. Yes, of course there are midwives and other staff in the hospital that could look after her but that is not the same as having someone there that she knows and someone that you trust. Doulas are practical and can help with getting the birthing woman comfortable, pop out and get everyone something to eat if you’d rather not go and also look after you so that you keep your energy up. It can get tough if labour has gone on for a long time and in those times, the doula can bring the positivity back in the room just by reminding you of the reason why you are there. You’re about to meet you baby!
I like to use the analogy of going on a long-haul flight where you get on the plane and take your seat. You can’t get off until the plane lands and you don’t know for sure what time that will be. If the plane experiences some turbulence, you will most likely look at the air-hostess to see what she is doing and if she is still smiling and serving, you know that everything is ok. The doula is a bit like the air-hostess and the long-haul flight is a bit like labour and birth. Most couples that used a doula for their first birth will book a doula again.
Doulas protect the birthing space for both the woman and her partner so that they enjoy and remember the birth of their child as a good experience. There are many reasons why ‘a doula is worth the moola’, not only for the birthing woman but also for her husband/partner and for the baby.
Make sure you book a doula who is a member of Doula UK.
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.