Mother and Baby

To Doula Or Not To Doula: Should You Hire a Doula For Your Birth?

Section: Labour & Birth
To doula, or not to doula?

When it comes to birth, making decisions can be tricky. With the best will in the world, things don’t always go as planned. We caught up with one pregnant blogger as she made the decision whether to doula, or not to doula. 

I’m not entirely sure when I decided to hire a doula but like everything else in my pregnancy, it was a gut decision (you can blame that for the excessive crisp consumption too).

But as soon as I had to fill out my birth preferences at about 34 weeks, I’d done my research and read as much as I could.

When you’re faced with all the choices pregnancy brings, it can be totally overwhelming. Where should you give birth and why? Do you want pain relief and if so, what? NCT or NHS antenatal classes? Breast of bottle feeding? To doula, or not to doula?

What is a doula?

I was fairly convinced a doula was some sort of medieval wet nurse, so you’ll find no judgement from me if you are also a little unsure.

Although the name literally translates from Ancient Greek as ‘female slave’, the role of a doula is simply to be your number one supporter. They’re with you throughout pregnancy, cheering you on in childbirth and helping you out in the heady early days of having your baby too.

Although the name literally translates from Ancient Greek as ‘female slave’, the role of a doula is simply to be your number one supporter. 

A traditional role previously filled by a midwife or your family, a doula will offer practical and emotional support, not clinical.

Although anyone can set themselves up as a doula, the non-profit body Doula UK offer a more ‘formal’ qualification (although they do not believe a doula’s ‘training’ ever ends) which leads to recognition status with them.

The cost of a doula varies dependent on experience, but can be as little as £200 for a mentored doula (who is still ‘in training’) right through to £2000. Although packages vary, an example of what your doula will offer includes antenatal and postnatal sessions as well as being on call as soon as ‘d-day’ arrives.

Why choose one?

For me, it was largely about emotional support for me as well as my husband.  With the best will in the world the excitement, anxiety and emotions of childbirth could send us both into a tizzy. So, having the luxury of an extra pair of hands there to support us both seemed like a no-brainer.

My doula, Olivia, has given me invaluable advice, introduced me to mums in the area and supported my every decision. She’s on call from 38 weeks onwards, and will come and join me from the very first contraction to the bitter end, tucking me up in bed with some tea and toast afterwards (her words, not mine!).

The ‘fluffy’ stuff aside, there is significant research suggesting having a doula present can shorten first time labour by approximately 2 hours, halve the chance of a caesarean and decrease the need for pain medication too (source: NCT).

Rebecca, a writer and editor, has had three babies (one in the US and two in the UK) and while all three births were different, she had a doula present each time. She says: “My doula supported me to breathe my way through every contraction, to focus and not get overwhelmed. And I was rewarded each time with a super quick birth, under an hour after the waters were broken.”

This is music to my ears, as I sit awaiting my impending bundle of joy due in less than 48 hours. Luckily, as you read this Olivia is on hand to calm my nerves over tea and cake.  Money well spent as far as I’m concerned.

Still not decided? You can read advice from a real doula on how you might benefit from another experienced pair of hands during labour here.


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