What is a Doula?

A doula is a birth partner or post-birth partner. She can help a pregnant woman before, during and/or after the birth. She can be any age from early twenties to late sixties. However, she must be kind, caring and supportive.

Naava Carman is an experienced birth doula, and attends births at venues across London. She has attended births at many hospitals in north London including UCH, Barnet General, St Mary’s, The Whittington, The Royal Free, Edgware Birthing Centre and Watford General. She is always delighted when asked to attend a home birth, and is used to working with both independent midwives and NHS midwives.

Whether in a birthing centre, consultant unit or attending a birth at home Naava is a calm presence, focused on supporting both mother and father during the labour and able to help the parents-to-be navigate any difficult situations which may arise during the course of the birth.

Where does the word ‘Doula’ come from?
The word ‘doula’ means ‘handmaiden’ or ‘servant’ in Ancient Greek. The term was coined in the US by Dana Raphael, a medical anthropologist, in her book ‘The Tender Gift’, which promotes the benefits of women teaching other women about mothering.

Are Doulas of any practical benefit in the birthing room or do they just make the mother feel happier?
A doula is not normally medically qualified and is not a replacement for a midwife or any other medical staff. The doula is there to support the parents, specifically the mother. A recent report in the United States (Mothering the Mother by Kennel, Klaus and Kennel) set out that caesarean births could be cut by half; labour pain could be reduced by 25%, and the odds of a forceps deLivery reduced by 40% if more women had a doula with them before and during the birth.

What’s the difference between a doula and a maternity nurse?
Maternity nurses are baby-centred while doulas are mother-centred. A maternity nurse will give you 24-hour care for six days a week and will get up at night with the baby and set a routine for him or her. A doula will help the mother to do the mothering. She will give advice and help with the labour process, breastfeeding, provide emotional support and some post-birth doulas will even help with housework and cooking in order to free the mother to care for herself and the baby.

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife or a health visitor?
Doulas are not usually medical professionals (although some may have been nurses or midwives in the past). At the birth, the doula is not a replacement for a midwife or any other medical staff, she is instead there to support the mother; sometimes as her champion if she feels pressurised to do something she does not want to do. In contrast, a post natal doula will not offer medical diagnosis or treatment, but can be a source of reassurance when parents are worrying needlessly about blotchy skin or an occasional sneeze.

What hours does a doula work?
Some doulas are only available to attend the birth itself, while others will work full-time or part-time after the birth, depending on the mother’s needs. Some mothers find that they only need help for a couple of weeks, while others value their doula so highly they want her with them for months.

How much do doulas cost?
Doulas working in the UK typically earn around £10-20 an hour for post birth work, although this rate is negotiable for each individual doula. They are unlikely to work for fewer than 4 hours a day. Doulas attending the birth itself charge a fee ranging from £300-£2,500 per birth, and will be present for the duration of the labour and birth.

How can I find out more about doulas?
You can find our more information about The Fertility Support Company’s doulas here.