You’ll get lots of free NHS support during your pregnancy and birth, but a growing number of women are choosing to hire private help, too
You’ll get lots of free NHS support during your pregnancy and birth, but a growing number of women are choosing to hire private help, too. An increasing demand in the past 10 years has seen expectant mums paying a price for having the right kind of birth for them.
But how much does it cost, what do the professionals do and, more importantly, is it worth the money?
Hiring a doula
Cost: From £200 for a student to £1,000 fully qualified. The Doula UK hardship fund can provide free doulas for women on benefits.
What she’ll do: A woman who’s had at least one baby herself, a doula supports you during birth or in the weeks afterwards.
‘In pregnancy, we can talk a mum-to-be through her options and attend appointments with her,’ says Bridget Baker, from Doula UK. ‘At the birth, we offer physical and emotional support and can interpret medical information.’ Postnatal doulas support new parents for £10-£25 per hour.
Is it worth it? Some women hire a doula if they’re worried their partner might not be able to offer them the right support, or they are single. Some pregnant women who are anxious about labour also choose this option, as the doula communicates with midwives and doctors on your behalf. It’s worth talking it over with your partner first, though, as some dads may feel left out of the experience.
Hiring an independent midwife
Cost: From £2,000-£4,500, often paid in instalments.
What she’ll do: Everything an NHS midwife would do. ‘We will support you in labour. While we can come into an NHS hospital with you, we can’t work clinically, ’ says Eleanor May-Johnson, from Independent Midwives UK. ‘Postnatally, we offer support for four to six weeks.’ In contrast, the NHS legal minimum is 10 days’ post-birth care.
Is it worth it? Women who have had a negative birth experience – for example, there weren’t enough midwives working to offer them continuous care – might go for this option. Although, in most circumstances, you’ll see the same midwife for all your antenatal checks and the birth, this isn’t always the case and some expectant mums don’t build up the relationship they feel they need.
Hiring a complementary therapist
Cost: Free in some NHS hospitals and birth centres, or £20-90 per hour. Many will do a reduced/flat rate when hired for the duration of labour.
What she’ll do: ‘The most commonly used therapies are aromatherapy, reflexology and acupuncture,’ says maternity complementary therapy expert Denise Tiran, from Expectancy. All are thought to help with labour pains and relaxation, but need to be administered by a qualified professional.
‘The main aims are to relax the mum-to-be so labour can progress as normally and calmly as possible,’ says Denise. Many women have sessions during pregnancy and some have treatments during labour.
Is it worth it? It depends on whether these therapies are ones you rate. However, many women say they felt more supported and relaxed with a therapist on hand.
Hiring a maternity nurse
Cost: Roughly £700-1,000 for live-in help or £15-25 an hour for a day or night nurse.
What she’ll do: ‘She’s responsible for caring for you and your newborn,’ says maternity consultant Hattie Weeks. For example, she’ll help with nappies, do bathtimes and help you establish breastfeeding, as well as some cooking, cleaning and the baby’s laundry. Live-in maternity nurses stay at your house 24/7, six days a week. Alternatively, they can be hired for day shifts, half days or nights.
Is it worth it? Some women choose this option if they lack support from anyone else, maybe they are a single parent or don’t have a family support network around them. Other women hire them as a way to bolster their confidence.
Ensure you’ve done your research and get on well with your chosen nurse, as having someone in your house you don’t like can have the opposite effect of the one you’re looking for.