Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘doula’ Category

Doulas

Posted on: August 9, 2009

Yesterday someone asked me for my opinion on Doulas, so here goes.

 www.doula.org.uk defines a doula as:

“Doula” (pronounced “doola”) is a Greek word meaning “woman servant or caregiver”. It now refers to an experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth. A doula believes in “mothering the mother” – enabling a woman to have the most satisfying and empowered time that she can during pregnancy, birth and the early days as a new mum. This type of support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience.

It is tricky to define my feelings about Doulas.  I guess I actually started out as a doula, as I attended the births of several friends in the context of being a birth supporter (although the term doula was not in common usage then). I absolutely feel that the best person to support a labouring woman is another woman who has given birth herself (that said I have met some excellent male midwives … hello Mark and Kevin and I also know some fantastic midwives who haven’t had children themselves). My personal experience with doulas is limited, but has generally been positive – as a midwife I am always happy that a woman is supported by those she feels comfortable with and indeed it can be very helpful to me, however I am also aware that some midwives have had negative experiences of doulas who perhaps have been in conflict with the midwife (and I am sure that some midwives may view doulas less favourably than me).

I find myself slightly uncomfortable with the doulas role partly I guess because I feel that if midwives are doing a good job the midwife would be supporting her client; but also I am concerned that we may be using “untrained” support i.e. doulas or maternity care assistants in place of midwives and this may not be appropriate.  I am increasingly hearing that the role of maternity care assistants (MCAs) is being extended – again, this evokes completely mixed feelings as I know MCAs can be excellent and they should not attempt anything that they have not been trained for, but they are not midwives and have not taken a three year training course.  Are they being used as cheap labour?  Will they miss vital signs and symptoms because of their lack of training?  I don’t know.

There are many positives to employing a doula, for example they will help with domestic duties for example cooking, shopping etc and this may well be beneficial, they are certainly cheaper than hiring an Independent Midwife like myself but their role is different.  For a woman planning a NHS hospital birth where the midwife may well also be caring for other clients it is a way of ensuring that the woman is not left alone and this will be supportive for the woman and her partner.

So I guess my jury is out on this one – I guess it is down to your personal circumstances.


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