The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their third child on Monday morning and, by all accounts, the baby arrived well and safe at the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital.
Kate gave birth to her third child in hospital again, despite rumours that she was planning a home birth. I am confident that a home birth was, indeed, her plan, but as a doula, I have come to understand that if you’re pregnant with private obstetric care, often many rules are applied if the pregnancy goes beyond 40 weeks and I expect even more so if you’re married to the man second in line to the crown.
While there is no confirmation that the Duchess employed the services of a doula, there are some murmurs in the birthing world that she did have a very experienced birth doula with her during the birth of her son.
In America, a survey in 2012 showed that 6% of births are supported by doulas and a long list of celebrities would not consider giving birth without the continuous emotional and practical support that doulas provide. Nicola Kidman, Idina Menzel, Tia and Tamera Mowry-Hardrict, Alanis Morissette, Alyson Hannigan, Alicia Keys; the list goes on. In the UK however, the majority of pregnant women have not heard of doulas and therefore not aware of the benefits of hiring one.
So, why would Kate Middleton want to have a doula on her birthing team? Well, essentially, a doula is a person, usually a woman, who offers emotional, practical and informative support for a woman (or couple), before, during and after childbirth. A doula is not a medically trained person, though has received some training and an experienced doula will have supported many births, gaining a wealth of experience of how different women can be supported during labour and birth.
Kate would have met with her doula beforehand to discuss her birthing options and they would have got to know each other and built up a rapport. The doula usually provides antenatal education, breastfeeding information, as well as passing on all the little tricks that she has learnt, either as a mother herself and/or through her experience. You will often hear doulas say: Some women choose to do "A", while other women choose to do "B". A doula would have given Kate all the options available to her and rather than advising her what to do, she would have listened and supported Kate in making her own choices, based on individual needs and wants.
When labour started in the early hours of Monday morning, the doula would have joined Kate and William in their home to provide reassurance and support during the early part of labour and then transferred to the hospital with them. In the hospital, she would have supported Kate with hypnobirthing, relaxation, breathing techniques and massage. Perhaps she even got some baby clothes out of the hospital bag to warm on the radiators whilst reminding Kate about how well she was doing and how soon she was to meet her baby. The doula would have also kept a close eye on William to make sure he was feeling ok with how things were progressing as well as reassuring him that everything was going well and that his wife was doing an amazing job!
As the baby was born, the doula would have perhaps stepped back to let the medically trained care givers do their bit and then she would have been there again, next to Kate, helping her with the baby’s first breastfeed and praised her for being such a strong and determined woman.
The doula would have slipped out through the backdoors of the hospital with the promise to meet the new mum back at home to continue with her support as well as to talk over the birth and clarify anything that might have been unclear or things that made them laugh as well as admiring the new baby.
The doula would then have stepped into her role as a postnatal doula, essentially a “New Mum Care Specialist” to support Kate with baby care, feeding, reassurance, a lot of listening and making sure she was resting. This support will continue for the next six to eight weeks, when the doula’s work will end and she will leave a confident mum, who knows how to look after her baby and follow her instincts to be the mum that is authentic to who she is.
If you look at all the research, especially the Cochrane Review of doula support, it makes total sense to me that Kate Middleton would use the services of a doula. She’s a strong, independent woman who would look to have someone to be there solely for her, that was not part of the medical team or part of her family. Many of my clients have referred to me as a ‘soldier in arms’ or someone there who cared only for them. The beacon of hope when it feels like everything is spiralling out of control.
I hope that in the days to come, we will all have the rumours confirmed and women in the UK and indeed, across the world, will finally have a full understanding of the great many benefits that doulas bring and look into investing in one for their own baby’s birth and postnatal period.
Even though it’s not a fact that Kate Middleton had a doula, it is most definitely a fact that doulas improve women’s birth experiences and prevent many of the interventions that can happen during birth. Doulas also lower the chance of postnatal illness and women who hire doulas are more likely to breastfeed successfully and for longer.
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.