What is a doula?

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be the winner of two national Bizmums awards at the 2015 Bizmums Awards & Conference. It was an amazing day and awesome to be surrounded by so many like-minded ladies – one of which was Catrin Archer, of South Wales Doulas. We connected instantly and I was just fascinated about the role of doulas in childbirth.

Catrin very kindly agreed to write a ‘guest blog’ for me, we hope you enjoy it!


Imagine there was a way for women to vastly increase their satisfactions in their birth experience while reducing the risk of medical interventions like Caesarean section (9% v’s 25%)*. Imagine this also increased the number of women exclusively breastfeeding at 4 weeks (82%)* and reduced the instance of postnatal depression?? Imagine that women could access this on top of the services their receive from the NHS and often for less than they would invest in their pram or nursery furniture. It exists, it called a Doula and we’re in a town near you, right now!

 I have been proudly talking about my Doula work for ten years and when I attend Baby Shows and events I often spend a great deal of time explaining what a Doula is, so I’ve got pretty good at condensing the idea. To me a Doula is the ‘birth fairy’, in that a Doula’s role is to have a deep understanding of the families birth goals and an understanding of how to maximise the environment and the support around the family in order to achieve them. Doula’s do not have a natural birth agenda, or any agenda other than satisfying the emotional and physical needs of her clients in labour and during the immediate postnatal period. Doula’s are trained, experienced birth professionals who support families during pregnancy, continually throughout birth and in the early days of parenting.

People often wonder why families hire a Doula when we have NHS midwives, those who have hired one wonder why so few do! Imagine waking on Christmas morning knowing you have a huge and complex Christmas dinner to prepare and you’ve never cooked before… Now imagine an experienced, trained, compassionate chef came over to guide you through the process, reassuring you every step of the way and empowering you to use you own skills so that every part of the meal was made by you. The chef nurtured the whole family at the same time, providing comfort, reassurance, distracted your other children, joked with your husband and empowered him to help you in just the way you want, fielded questions and interference from other relatives and offered suggestions when you got a little lost. The chef also tidies the house, puts on a fragrant festive candle, draws the curtains, lights the fire and hangs wreaths and sparkly lights around the table ready for the perfect dinner about to be served. You guessed it, a Doula is a chef, no not quite, but most of us can make mean toast and open a packet of biscuits.

Doula’s attend ALL types of births, from natural home births to elective Caesarean sections, all families deserve the very best information and support to make informed choices and have their choices supported. I am for example also training to offer support for families experiencing pregnancy loss and many Doula have supported families coping with

miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal loss, this full circle Doula support also includes termination of pregnancy for whatever reason. For Doula’s the focus is always the emotional wellbeing of her client and finding ways to make birth special, memorable and to ensure the client’s wishes and needs are paramount in all decisions and discussions.

 There are numerous Doula’s appearing in even the furthest reaches of the UK, in fact the growth in the use of Doula’s at birth is very rapidly growing due to demand for continuity of support and advocacy. Currently Doula’s are not regulated, this means anyone can call themselves a Doula and support births and postnatal families. There are however several organisations who accredit training and who provide feedback and avenues for complaints etc from families and other professionals and Doula’s may carry their training certificate and be able to provide references etc. personally I feel ‘rapport’ and understanding of your needs and wishes counts for far more than anything else, so if you are looking for a Doula look widely, explore outside of the main organisations, independent Doula’s often have years of experience and may have good reasons for not joining the throngs.

With the vast majority of Doula’s offering free initial meetings to discuss their services and how they may be able to support you and your family there is nothing to loose by finding out if there is a good fit near you. Although the investment required for Doula support varies between Doulas and between geographical locations most will discuss payment plans and some may even be able to offer reduced fees for families of limited resources. Doulas are self employed and should set their price to allow them to invest in their training and development and offer full time Doula services should they wish! Having stood several times near big brand pram stands in shows I am acutely aware that hiring a Doula is affordable to most families, after all, your birth experience will last forever!

Please feel free to contact me with your questions about Doula’s, whether you are considering hiring a Doula, want to know what questions to ask to get your perfect fit or you are thinking of training to become a Doula, I love to talk about what I do and having seen the impact of Doula support its my duty to spread the word!

Catrin Archer

Birth and Postnatal Doula – Antenatal Teacher – Doula Trainer

Founder of South Wales Doulas

Winner of BizMums Exceptional Service Award 2015