The new must-have accessory for mums to be
With a shortage of NHS midwives, a growing number of women are employing the services of an unoffical birthing assistant.
Meet the ‘doula‘, the new must-have accessory for middle-class mums-to-be. The term comes from Ancient Greek and refers to ‘a woman of service’. In the context of labour, she is a birthing assistant, offering emotional and practical support.
The practice of having a ‘doula’ is an ancient one. Historically, women assisted other women as unofficial ‘doulas’ when birth took place in the home. After the birth, a woman remained with her doula for a ‘lying in’ period during which she recuperated and got to know her baby.
In 2004, around 700 women hired a doula. Last year, it was 2500. The number of doulas available via the Doula UK network stands at 450 – in 2003 there were just 28.
Trained doula and mental health nurse, Marcia Blackstock, runs Doula Consultancy Services (DCS). She says: ‘Too often mothers are rushed back into normal day-to-day activities,” says Ms Blackstock. ‘With the help of a doula, a mother can enjoy some of the benefits of a prolonged ‘lying in’ period. This helps her bond with her baby and spend extra time with any older siblings.’
‘If a woman gives birth in hospital she is often left to her own devices. Having a doula means you’re more likely to be relaxed so there’s less chance something will go wrong.’
The Doula Consultancy, www.findadoula.org.uk, 0844 25 10 374, charges £499.99 for a birth package, which includes two ante-natal visits, attendance at the birth and follow-up support.