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Doula or don't?

Would you consider hiring a Doula? Doula is a Greek word meaning servant; it has come to be the term in the West for a professional Birth Partner. Many women automatically choose their own partner as their main Birth Partner and aren't too keen on the idea of having a second Birth Partner. It's worth a thought though. Having a second Birth Partner means you don't have to be left alone for a minute as two Birth Partners can tag team; especially helpful in a long labour. It also means that your partner has some back up and doesn't carry the full responsibility alone; even something as simple as knowing you have someone with you while he parks the car or nips to the loo, can decrease stress.

Of course it doesn't have to a professional who you might choose as a second birth partner; anyone who you get on well with and is able to be calm and compassionate will be helpful. Research shows that if the second birth partner is a woman who has had a baby; the mother-to-be will use less medicalised pain management and the labour will be shorter. Many men do a wonderful job but they sometimes find it a bit harder to be intuitive about things like tying the mother's hair back if she gets hot, offering lip balm if the mother's lips become dry with all the labour breathing; sometimes a female birth partner finds this aspect of the role easier.

Doulas have undertaken training and would usually be able to offer support for the use of positions, massage, breathing and sometimes alternative therapies too. If you need them to act as your advocate, they can, but many will melt into the background and simply support you and your partner. Doulas are often very good at knowing when to take a back seat, and when to step up.

NCT offers Birth Companions/Doulas who are NCT Antenatal Teachers and have undergone further training with NCT: The website: registers Doulas in the UK who have undertaken appropriate training. It may be worth meeting 2 or 3 Doulas and finding out who you really click with. Most Doulas will meet with you 2 or 3 times before the birth; they will be on call for you over the period when your baby is due, some will offer a postnatal visit too. Some Doulas offer postnatal packages as well.

The cost varies a lot depending on area and the expertise and experience of the Doula but would usually start around the £2-300 mark. Both NCT and DoulaUK can help with the costs of a Doula for women in difficult financial circumstances. Asking if there are any Student Doulas can be useful - if they are almost qualified, they will do a great job and may charge less.

Whether you Doula, or whether you don''s certainly something worth thinking about.

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