A few weeks back I was having a conversation with a blogger over Twitter, this lady was close to giving birth. The woman in question had planned a home birth and was worried when her birthing pool was not available. I recommended getting into touch with a doula as they may have links for birthing pool hire in her area.
The women replied “What is a doula?”
Since giving birth I live in a world of perinatal mental health, I am quite clued up when it comes to doulas, however, before I had children I had no idea either!
Today I am interviewing Sam, a doula based in Caerphilly. I am hoping she will give you an insight into what a doula is and how they can help families.
- Hi Sam, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Charlotte, lovely to be interviewed by you – I am Sam, I am 48 and I live in Maesycwmmer just outside Caerphilly, with my husband Ed and my 3 youngest children, Cara, Elliott and Trystan – 2 in school and 1 home edded.
I am a birth and postnatal doula, antenatal educator, birth rights activist and I am about to train as a hypno birthing teacher. I also support women who have experienced a traumatic birth.
I also blog and collect unusual birth stories (with permission of course).
- Amazing. I have just read that that the latest celebrity to hit the headlines for hiring a doula is of course Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. So what exactly is a doula? Can anyone hire one?
Yes, I was thrilled to read Meghan was having a doula. The official definition of a Doula is a “non medical birth companion”, but Doula is an ancient Greek word – we have been around for a long time. Any woman can have a doula and having one may lead to a better birth and postnatal experience.
There are many types of doulas, for me a doula is someone who is “with woman”, the main focus of my work focuses on the pregnancy and birth, immediate postnatal period, sometimes preconception through to raising children. I support woman at many stages, during happy and joyous times and times of deep trauma and sadness.
I provide support to women and families who want to have children, I hold their hands when they give birth, I help them to enjoy the postnatal period, I support them through raising their children in my positive parenting group. I have supported women post loss. I have supported those post termination who felt they didn’t “deserve” to have another baby, punishing themselves emotionally for events in the past.
I do antenatal education including 121, birth trauma work, loss support, postnatal work, occasional baby sitting and anything that involves supporting women.
I am also looking at working as an “IVF Doula” – supporting women though egg collection as I have supported a number of IVF families.
I literally do anything and everything you can think a family might need, from the moment there is even the thought they may have a baby, be that a first baby, a 3rd baby or a fifth baby, through to when they are self sufficient and feel they don’t need my additional support any more.
I run the South Wales Birth Circle, Home Birth Support Group UK and other groups providing online and in person support and the Village Sling Library.
- What/who inspired you to become a doula?
I had a really traumatic first birth, with my eldest son – when I got pregnant again 13 years later all that initial, unresolved trauma hit me and I was lucky enough to be supported online by a Doula, I went from demanding a caesarean to having an incredible water birth.
I supported my best friend many years ago when she had a very premature baby – these things laid the foundations for me to become a doula and then a friend suggested I would make an excellent doula. It went from there.
- What type of training is required to become a doula? Is there strict training or guidelines to abide by?
There is no legal requirement for training to become a doula – I am a member of Doula UK and all of the doulas I work with have also trained with a Doula UK approved trainer. I think it is important to ensure your doula has been trained by a recognised organisation. Doula UK also has a mentorship programme where new doulas are supported by a more experienced Doula – a Doula Mentor – I am myself now a Doula UK Mentor.
Doula UK and all its members are members of the European Doula Network and have international links.
I have undertaken a lot of additional training, in rebozo, aromatherapy and acupuncture, Supporting Childbirth In Survivors of Abuse and many other areas. As I just mentioned I am about to do my hypnobirthing training.
- I know of midwives who are yet to have children. Is this the case with doulas or are most doulas parents themselves?
Most of the doulas I know have got their own children – it is often their own experiences that bring women to doulaing, although it is important not to allow those to influence your support of women.
- How would you describe your doula style? What is your philosophy about birth?
I am very laid back as a doula – my biggest role is to be there for my clients, emotionally and physically and also to ensure they have all the information they need to make an informed decision about their birth.
I often say I do not care how my clients give birth – be that hanging like a fruit bat from a tree in the garden or in a theatre under general anaesthetic. I care that they are treated well, that they are given all the information they need to make informed choices and that they have the positive birth experience, wherever and however that happens, that all women deserve.
- How many births have you attended and have you faced many complications?
Last time I counted I had attended 25 births but its probably a few more than that now – I don’t take many clients a year so I will never attend hundreds of births.
I have supported thousands of women through my online groups, both local and national, my groups can be found here and include a local and national home birth group and the local South Wales Birth Circle. All the local groups have free meetups – Positive Parenting Group
A lot of my clients fall into “high risk” categories and I have supported a number of twin families and premature babies – I have supported all sorts of births from freebirths (with no midwife in attendance) through to general anaesthetic cesarean birth.
- What are your fees? Do you offer packages?
At the moment I charge £750 plus mileage per birth – this is for a free meetup, 2 antenatals, a variety of useful tools, access to my library, tens machine, 4 weeks on call, going to your birth and a postnatal visit as well as support in the postnatal period.
I offer an SOS service for last minute bookings. I charge £20 an hour postnatally and £25 an hour for most of my other services (plus mileage).
I do provide packages and payment plans and the very occasional skill swap. I have had a few clients pay me after their babies have come.
- How do you feel about pain management and epidurals?
I genuinely do not have an opinion on what women should do – so long as they are making informed decisions for themselves and understand the pros and cons of what they are using. For one woman a hospital birth with an epidural may provide her with the safe, painfree experience she needs to birth her baby, for another that may be best served at home with minimal pain relief.
A doula is herself a form of pain relief – studies show when women have a doula – that the need for pain relief and intervention lessens.
Women are the experts in themselves and the only question I need ask myself is “is my client fully informed”.
- Do you stay for the duration of labour/childbirth? If a labour is particularly long would there be an extra fee? How do you support mum during labour?
I stay for the whole birth – be that hours or days – I do not leave until the baby is born and where possible the family has everything they need. The longest I have been out at a birth was 3 days, the shortest about 5 hours.
I support birthing women (and dad if there is one) in the way that they want to be supported – I know that sounds odd but being a doula is a bit like being a chameleon – I adapt to suit the needs of the family I am with.
I am trained in aromatherapy for childbirth and my clients find my presence a support. For some women I am very hands on, rubbing backs, providing counter pressure, being not a handspan away.
Other women – I literally sit on a sofa and hold space – just being there is enough, I provide gentle guidance to dads and other birth partners as well.
It makes such a difference to families to have a familiar face at their birth. I also offer birth photography – or to capture a birth on my clients phones and they usually love these.
- How long do you stay after the birth? Are you able to offer breastfeeding support?
I stay as long as I am needed, I usually tidy up (unless it has been a very long birth), I might take a birth pool down, put the washing machine on, make sure a cup of tea and snacks have been eaten – I am the last person to leave and ideally I like to leave when everyone is tucked up together in bed.
There is a moment – when you just know it is time to leave.
I do provide breast feeding support – I am a trained breast feeding peer supporter – I am a breast feeding mother with 10 years experience – I triandem fed mine (which means I fed all 3 of them at the same time) and it is this experience I mostly use to support women in breast feeding.
- Do you work with a clients doctor or midwife?
I do attend extra appointments if my clients want me to and at birth we are all a team working together for the benefit of the birthing woman, however, I am hired by my clients and it is to them I am accountable.
- Do you offer any additional services? Pool hire or placenta encapsulation?
I am also involved in local and national birth pool hire, tens machine hire and birth pool supplies (such as liners etc). I am Neals Yard Consultant, I also co own The Village Slings sling library.
I love Drumming and Chanting and hold a monthly drum and chant circle. I have a sideline in making original chant based artwork (I take orders). I also have a “Shop Under The Stairs” selling crystals, goddess and mother blessing gifts, jewellery and art journals.
I have links to the local placenta encapsulators and my clients get 10% discount on their services.
- How would my readers get in touch with you?
I am pretty easy to find on google, facebook, instagram and twitter and my website is an amazing resource for birthing women. I can also be found in person running fortnightly free birth circle meetups, the local home birth meetups and at my Drum and Chant circle.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/samanthagadsdendoula/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/samanthagadsdendoula/
Website – www.caerphillydoula.co.uk
Support groups – http://caerphillydoula.co.uk/about/my-groups/
If you are not local to Sam please contact Doula Uk to find a doula in your area – https://doula.org.uk/
If you are looking for a doula outside of the UK please visit – http://european-doula-network.org