Just a fad?
Having a doula became quite the thing in recent years. With the rise in celebrities like Meghan Markle having a doula at her birth, suddenly everyone seemed to want a doula too!
In light of this doulas are seen by many as a trendy fad. I believe this has a lot to do with why we’ve been arbitrarily band from our foremost place of work thanks to the pandemic – hospitals. It is, however, becoming increasingly apparent that the emotional and physical support, signposting and advocacy that doulas, or birth workers, provide is really necessary.
The problem with our maternity system
The NHS maternity system is failing woman and birthing people as it is increasingly restricted in the care and support they provide, focussing more on clinical health rather than emotional and physical well-being. The system is also increasingly risk adverse – pigeon holing individuals to fit within protocols that don’t necessarily serve to benefit women, birthing people or their babies. The rise in inductions seems to be evidence of this as increasing women and birthing people having scans at 36 wks are told that their babies are too big or too small and must be induced.
Evidenced based work
We know that birth outcomes are significantly improved by having an independent doula or birth worker with you for your birth. In 2017, Bohren et al. published an updated Cochrane review on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth. This not only looked at the provision of continuous support during labour but the effect of having a doula over say a hospital staff member providing support. The figures speak for themselves – the asterisked figure is doula support.
- 25% decrease in the risk of Cesarean; the largest effect was seen with a doula (39% decrease)*
- 8% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth; the largest effect was seen with a doula (15% increase)*
- 10% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief; the type of person providing continuous support did not make a difference
- Shorter labors by 41 minutes on average; there is no data on if the type of person providing continuous support makes a difference
- 38% decrease in the baby’s risk of a low five minute Apgar score; there is no data on if the type of person providing continuous support makes a difference
- 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience; mothers’ risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience was reduced with continuous support provided by a doula or someone in their social network (family or friend), but not hospital staff
Evidence is also emerging about how the pandemic has effected women and birthing people. Dr Mari Greenfield shared her findings here – https://vimeo.com/456182905
Women and birthing people from all walks of life are seeking out birth support.
I think, particularly now, as a result of COVID, women and birthing people from all walks of life are seeking out additional support during pregnancy and birth. With restrictions continually changing and differing from Trust to Trust, confidence in our maternity system is pretty low, and levels of confusion and distress high.
This is why we need birth workers who can identify with the communities who needs us. Whatever your birth experiences, personal circumstances, and no matter how you identify, there are people who need your unique gifts and experiences to help them navigate the maternity system and support them through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.
If you would like to join a birth worker training programme that will enable you to become a strong, confident birth worker and build your business you can find out more here