Birth Doula - Medway, Kent & south east London

Guest Blog Post - Hannah from Reframing Birth: When it comes to birth, it should not be a question of midwife vs. doula..

 Care should be harmonious, with the women at the centre. Everyone is working towards a common goal – a positive birth experience

In the birthing world, Doula’s seem to be becoming a popular choice of support for pregnant women, before, during and after birth. As a student midwife and hypnobirthing teacher, I can only see this as an amazing addition to a woman’s birthing experience. This is why it surprises me that their role is not always understood nor welcomed by the qualified midwife.

I think there is often a lack of understanding of the role of a doula. She is not medically trained, though is likely to have undertaken Doula training which qualifies her to support women through their childbearing journey. Maybe midwives feel threatened by this? Another birth worker who may have conflicting thoughts? A strong and powerful supporter, who will advocate for her client, no matter what? Is this not what midwives should be doing, too? Someone who is not bound by medical guidelines and so does not ‘understand’ why midwives are stuck in such a difficult place when it comes to being unbiased and providing women an informed choice? Is this what midwives think?

When it comes to birth, it should not be a question of midwife vs. doula. Care should be harmonious, with the women at the centre. Everyone is working towards a common goal – a positive birth experience for the woman and in order to do this, all professionals should be transparent, kind and welcoming of each other’s personal knowledge and professional responsibilities.

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Back to my thoughts about Doulas. One of the most important things for me, as a student midwife and hypnobirthing practitioner, is that a woman feels her birth experience was positive and can look back on the moment and care she received with fond memories. However, the steady increase in perinatal mental health problems (e.g. postnatal depression and post traumatic stress disorder), may indicate this is not being achieved. One of the leading ‘causes’ of perinatal mental illness is a feeling of lack of control in labour. This needn’t be due to a massive emergency, it may be due to not being listened to or having the ability to make informed choices. There has been brilliant change happening in the birth world in regards to informed decision making, however, this is not something all women are getting and that is massively disheartening. This is a basic human right in childbearing which is being neglected and leading to so many long term emotional difficulties.

A doula is likely to know her client well, know her preferences for birth and how she wishes to be supported throughout. She can advocate her thoughts clearly and professionally, always working in the best interests of the woman. This can improve outcomes, both physically and emotionally for the woman and her family. At a time where we are most vulnerable, sometimes there is a need for that extra support. Midwives do strive to provide this sort of care to all women, but occasionally they may be too far stretched to fulfil every need. Extra supporters can never be a bad thing.

This is why we need doulas and women need to make use of them. This is why midwives need to be open to other birth workers joining women in their sacred space and not feeling threatened by their knowledge. We are all working together, with different roles and responsibilities. Let’s work in harmony to improve birth experiences for women, because THAT is what we are all striving for.

Hannah Gerken

Student Midwife & Hypnobirthing Teacher

www.reframingbirth.co.uk