- A doula offers emotional and practical support to families during pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood.
- Doulas are not healthcare professionals and do not take the role of a midwife
- Doula UK is a non-profit association of doulas operating across the UK.
- All members of Doula UK work within the guidance of its Code of Conduct and adhere to its philosophy.
- Doula UK operates the Doula Access Fund which allows parents who might otherwise not be able to benefit from the support of a doula to do so.
- Doula UK provides a free ‘Find a Doula’ service at www.doula.org.uk
What is a doula ?
A doula offers continuous emotional and practical support through pregnancy, labour and birth as well as providing flexible practical and emotional support postnatally.
Doulas do not take a clinical role and work alongside midwives and doctors. They do not advise, but support families to find balanced information to make informed decisions about their maternity care.
A doula supports the whole family to ensure as positive a birth experience and postnatal period as possible.
Why are they needed?
As childbirth has moved from home to hospital, and our society has become more fractured, with smaller families and people often moving away from their immediate families before having children, a vital element of care has been lost from the whole process.
Gone are the days where continuous support from one carer throughout pregnancy and labour are standard. Now, even if one midwife gives support throughout pregnancy, it is rare for that midwife to be the one supporting the birth. Doulas provide continuity of care throughout.
What preparation and training do they have?
Members of Doula UK must complete a Doula UK Approved Course which follows the specialist Doula UK Core Curriculum. Each doula has the support of an experienced Doula UK mentor whilst undertaking and reflecting on a range of birth and postnatal jobs before becoming a recognised Doula UK doula. All members must follow Doula UK Code of Conduct and the Doula UK Philosophy and are obliged to continue their professional development to retain membership.
What exactly do they do?
Services offered by a doula vary greatly according to the needs of the mother/parents-to-be. A doula’s role has to be flexible to fit in with the given situation as every birth and experience is unique.
Typically the doula will usually meet women/parents to be in pregnancy to talk about birth physiology, fears, expectations, previous experiences, hopes etc. They will provide an unbiased viewpoint and signpost evidence based relevant information. Doulas typically go on-call from the 38th week of pregnancy until the baby arrives.
During labour the doula is a calm and constant presence and can offer comfort and suggestions on coping mechanisms such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. The doula can also give continuous support and reassurance to a partner.
A birth doula will typically follow up with a couple of postnatal visits to help the new family settle at home.
Postnatal doulas work flexible hours to suit the family, offering practical and emotional support to the new mother/parents in the home following the birth of the baby/babies. The doula’s role is empowering a family to take care of itself with encouragement, practical support around infant feeding, baby and sibling care and can include helping with domestic tasks, cooking, laundry etc.
What does it cost?
Doulas can be employed directly and paid by their clients, or may choose to volunteer – such as under the Doula UK Access Fund or with women’s refuge charities – or may be employed in the NHS, or paid by Social Services or Childrens’ Centres working with their clients.
The cost of a doula birth package varies according to location and experience, but generally starts at £600 for a birth package. Postnatal doulas charge from upwards of £15 per hour.
Doula UK also provides the Doula Access Fund, which enables those who would not otherwise be able to afford a doula to access support.
Is there any evidence to back up claims about doulas?
There is a significant body of medical evidence to show that having a doula can mean:
- Reduced risk of Caesarean birth † *
- Reduced risk of instrumental birth † *
- Reduced need for painkillers or epidural during birth † *
- Reduced rate of induction of labour † *
- Shorter labour †
- Increased parental satisfaction with the birth experience†
- Increased likelihood of initiating breastfeeding *
- Increased likelihood of successfully establishing breastfeeding & breastfeeding at 6 weeks *
* Brigstocke S. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 24, no 2, 2014, pp 157-160
† Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of
Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub5
For details of more research about doulas, see our website doula.org.uk
What is Doula UK?
Doula UK is the leading organisation for doulas in the UK, with a network of c.700 member doulas. Founded in 2001 as a not-for-profit organisation.
Our aims are to: promote life-changing support for families in the childbearing year regardless of circumstance; nurture the doula community; protecting parents and health professionals; and advocate for better support for UK families.
For more information about doulas and Doula UK please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Spokespeople are available for interview and case-studies can be provided.