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Ten top tips for brilliant birth partners

The best birth partners need support too.

It’s a very common concern that doulas will take over from or push out the birthing woman’s own partner. If you chat with people who have had a doula though you will find they say in reality the opposite is true. Doula support for women extends to and fully includes their partner. Having a doula helps partners feel more involved and more confident in supporting their partner.

You can be a confident and relaxed birth partner too. 10 ways to be a brilliant birth partner

There are quite a few things that doulas talk about and do in antenatal sessions and through labour and birth that are useful tools for birth partners. We’ve put together a list of some of the tips to remember to help you feel confident and be a great birth partner.

  1. Remember it’s all about the birthing woman. Her opinion and decisions are the ones that matter and you must always be on her side. Professionals working with the birthing woman may give advice but it’s just advice ultimately the decisions are hers and you support her. If you’ve got concerns or questions you can and should chat through them with your partner and or her midwife ahead of the day. This will allow you to understand and better support your partner’s decisions and choices. But always remember it’s up to her to decide and you to support.
  2. If you’ve got fears about labour and birth talk about them openly with the woman who you will be a birth partner for well before the day. It’s normal to be worried about something you’ve never been through and there are a lot of scary stories told about birth. Make sure you really listen to her and between you find a good source of information on the facts (your midwife or doula will help you find what you need) that can help to bring your fears into perspective. Read books and or go to antenatal classes together.
  3. On the day keep yourself calm and strong, well hydrated and nourished. Pack your own bag for labour and birth with things you might need to stay comfortable so you can be there for your partner without worrying about having to go off and look after yourself. Remeber when choosing snacks to pack pregnant and especially birthing women have a very strong sense of smell.
  4. Respect that your partner is the one doing this birth, much as you might find you’re uncomfortable seeing her work so hard or want to take away her pain it’s not your job. Your job is to be on her side and in her team. See her working hard and grow in your respect for her do not pity her.
  5. Make a birth plan for yourself by asking your partner what you can do to help and support her as she labours. Make a  list for yourself the things you can do at each stage of labour to support her. On the day work through that list any time you feel lost or worried.
  6. Be the guardian of the birthing space. Birth requires the same hormones that making the baby did. Imagine you’re trying to seduce your partner in the most romantic way you can and those are the conditions you’re looking for to help support her labour and birth. Privacy, calm, loving, positive talk about how amazing she is, low lights, relaxing music, slow dancing, massage, snogging are all perfect for getting through labour. Follow the lead of the birthing woman in terms of which things are working for her at the time.
  7. Don’t take it personally if in labour it turns out your partner just wants to close her eyes and disappear into her own world and not be touched. Don’t think this means she doesn’t need or want you. Be close by and be prepared to provide practical support such as help getting to the loo or pass the water bottle and remember just being there is your number one priority. Your very presence in the room is allowing her to feel safe enough to go into herself and be completely vulnerable and surrendered to her labour and birth.
  8. If things don’t go according to the first plan don’t panic. Remember to help your partner ask the questions she needs to know the answer to in order to make new plans and decisions. Don’t stop talking up the birthing woman. Whatever happens she’s still amazing and you need to keep telling her how great she is.
  9. Feel free to quietly ask questions of your care provider if there are things that you don’t understand or want to know more about why they are going on. Quietly if it’s a time you need to not disturb the birthing woman from her rhythm but also confidently and insistently if it’s at a time when she’s being asked to make decisions about possible interventions.
  10. Enjoy the journey. Grow your love and admiration for the woman you’re lucky enough to witness labour and birth and be ready to be totally bowled over by the amazing new person who’s about to burst (not literally) in and take over your world

Positive Birth Plans

Hampshire Doulas Top Tips for making a Brilliant Positive Birth Plan.

Almost as soon as you tell people you’re pregnant you can expect to start hearing horror stories about how terrible people’s births have been, about how it’s the worst pain ever, worse than breaking all your bones at once. You might hear one or two people say actually for me birth was amazing I coped ok with the contractions and holding my new baby was the best moment of my life, I felt like a rock star. But in among all the other negative stories and all the images in the media of women screaming and suffering it might seem like those people were just lucky. You might hear it said that there’s no point in a birth plan, birth never goes to plan anyway, you’d just be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Is there any point to a birth plan?

If you feel like you would like to change the script, step out of the madness and even maybe look forward to giving birth the power is in your hands. Planning for birth might be just what you need. Information is power. Regardless of what you choose to put on a birth plan or even if you choose to have one, in the end, the power is in the planning stage. Knowing how birth works and what your rights are and talking through different possible ways that labour can go with your birth partner and how you would handle changes in the plan can give you the power over all the worries and fears that our society fills your head with.

Where to start?

Reading a good book about birth is a great place to start planning for your birth. The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill is one great example another is Bump by Kate Evans. Going along to a Positive Birth Movement Group is another great place to start hearing other people’s stories of how they weren’t just lucky but they did have a positive birth.

Positive births can be any kind of birth, the way you are treated and cared for and being aware of your own power in the birth situation are the keys. You should know that every choice is yours, your caregivers will give you the very best medical advice they have but you can always ask what are the alternatives and ask for more details or time to make your own decisions.

What is oxytocin?

Here comes the science bit, bear with me it’s not that complicated and there’s only the one new word. There’s a hormone that your body and brain both make it’s called oxytocin. Oxytocin does lots of things in your body, probably more than have been discovered so far. One of the things it does is to make the muscles in your uterus contract in a coordinated way. That coordinated muscle contraction is what your uterus needs to do to pull back your cervix and push out your baby (otherwise known as labour and birth). This is a system of your body much like digestion or walking that works much better if you don’t overthink it. Another handy function of oxytocin is it helps you feel ok about pain and it helps to encourage your body to make endorphins which actually help you feel less pain.

So here are the practical top tips for planning for your labour and birth.

  1. Plan to give yourself the highest possible levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin and labour and birth thrive in the same conditions as sex and romance. As Ina May Gaskin puts it ‘the energy that gets the baby in gets the baby out’. We’re talking low lights, relaxing music if you like it, lots of laughter and positive talking from someone who loves you, loving touch such as cuddles and massages. Just as we need to feel safe and loved to enjoy sex, feeling safe and loved helps us to birth more easily.
  2. Understand that the pain of contractions is not the same pain as the pain of injury. The pain of contractions is the overwhelming feeling of your body working the hardest it ever has. Think of when hardcore athletes say they love to feel the pain and push through the pain that’s the pain your feeling with contractions. Your body is signalling not that something is wrong like with an injury pain but that everything is right. Helping your birth partner know the response you need is for them to admire you like a professional athlete not pity you like someone being damaged is a really good start to helping them learn what you need from them through your labour and birth.
  3. Find ways that help you work with your body. You might be planning to have an epidural or gas and air or a water birth or just to bite on a piece of wood. But whatever the plan as labour goes on there’s also going to be an early stage where you need to work with your contractions and allow your body to get working. You might be someone who likes movement or someone who finds something to repeat in your head to distract and relax you or someone who likes to really focus on breathing deep and slowly. Consider looking in to antenatal classes that suit you, hypnobirthing, yoga, active birth, aquanatal anything that gives you a practical tool rather than just basic information. Check out our ideas for positive affirmations if that appeals to you.
  4. Remind your birth partner to respect how amazing you are giving birth and to focus on being your biggest fan not worrying about you. Help them to help you by talking about the things you find it encouraging to hear when you’re working hard and things that might annoy you. Also, help them learn how you feel about the complications and deviations from plan A that could occur during your labour and what your choices might be in those situations. Help them learn to help you ask questions and make informed decisions and be prepared to accept and support your decisions on the day whatever they may be.
  5. Don’t forget after the birth comes life with a baby. Make a postnatal plan too. Plan to look after yourself to get the support and ask for the help you need. Plan to take it easy, live a 24-hour lifestyle when it comes to sleep and spend as much time as possible skin to skin with your baby.

A doula is someone who’s support will come in all the ways that we’ve talked about here. They get to know you, support you with all the practical things you need during labour, support and encourage your birth partner so they can enjoy the birth too and always focus on how amazing you are and support your decisions whatever they may be.

If you would like a doula to help you make a birth plan or a doula to support you through the whole of labour and birth or a doula to help with your postnatal plan head over to our find a doula page or send us a message.

 

A birth story of two doulas and one baby for World Doula Week 2018

Doula Support Birth Story. Baby snug in his own bed at home.

Doula Support Birth Story. From Home Birth to Caesarean Birth. Positive Choices.

For world doula week 2018 were really pleased to bring you the birth story of a Hampshire Doula baby.

We talked to his mum and their doula and we have shared the story here and across our social media to celebrate the way doulas help make ‘it’ happen. That ‘it’ might be: better births, bonding, support, breastfeeding, information or comfort.

Doula Vikki Young starts the story.

I saw the birth of a brand new soul last year. His name is Brodie. He’s a Hampshire Doula baby through and through!

Mum, Ali is a Hampshire Doula and I was her birth Doula.

It’s a pretty huge honour to be asked to be anyone’s Doula. But when it’s for a Doula herself you literally BEAM sunshine and rainbows.

Doula and Mum Ali Russell-Webb can start the story from further back. She tells us about her first birth and why she wanted a doula with her during her second birth.

After my first birth, I was completely traumatised. Naive to the world of, anything to do with, healthcare, I had no real idea what was happening to me or what was about to happen. Everything had been quite stressful, I had undiagnosed antenatal depression and I was overdue. This led to me being coerced into an induction, with the only thing I was terrified of, being a c-section.

My induction failed (or as a VBAC midwife once told me- it didn’t fail because it put me into labour). Well after 24 hours of that induced labour, and pain, I ended with a c-section for, what we thought was a failure to progress. This, we later found out, at a VBAC session, was not the reason, but the baby had turned OP and couldn’t get out. I stayed in the hospital for 7 days, after the birth. During which time my baby was topped up with formula, I was made to feel like I couldn’t feed him and I was shouted at by a midwife. This all resulted in terrible PND, with which I was suicidal, and PTSD. It took me 10 months to go near the hospital again.

[Editor’s note: post-traumatic stress disorder is something that can happen after any traumatic event including a traumatic experience of birth. There is help and support available if you think you may be struggling with this the birth trauma association is one good place to start. If you’re local please contact us here and we can also help you find local support. If you’re planning a birth and looking to avoid this please consider attending your local Positive Birth Movement meet-ups and look into having doula support for your birth.]

Despite all this, I knew I didn’t want an only child. When I found out I was pregnant again, I was terrified. This pregnancy was awful- HG, for 4 months followed by nasty PGP. Between both babies, I had trained as a Doula, and studied, inside and out, maternity care. I knew I needed a Doula to support me this time, and wonderful Vikki Young agreed. Even though I am not easy to support, and probably even worse when pregnant. I spent my whole pregnancy beating myself up because I was a Doula, I know about birth, why was I so terrified? Also, I have never felt so lonely, as I did in the last weeks, probably another bout of, less severe, antenatal depression.

So now we come on to the birth story. Ali tells us how things got started. 

I planned my HBAC, still terrified of the hospital and was fairly content with the plan. Due to my newly learned knowledge about my first son being OP [positioned back to back with mum in the uterus more details here] and PGP [pelvic girdle pain –more details here], I had chiropractic treatment all the way through my pregnancy. I did yoga, Spinning Babies and anything else to ensure good positioning.

Doula Support Birth Story. Doula pours water over mums back as she labours in the birth pool. Close Up.After a second dose of evening of primrose oil, [this is a personal experience Hampshire Doulas recommends you research anything before deciding if it’s for you which applies to alternative therapies as well as suggested medical interventions] I woke up about 3.30am, the date after my EDD (estimated date of delivery – those are nonsense) with a lot of fluid, but mostly smelling of evening primrose oil. 😁 I thought it was my waters but tried to go back to sleep. After being kicked in the face, by a toddler, for the millionth time, I gave up. There were mild surges starting (remember I’d never gone into natural labour) and I was bloody determined they were going to develop because I was so over being pregnant! (I don’t do pregnancy or babies small)

After labouring, well, staying active and being able to chat to Vikki, everything seemed all good. I got into the pool, which was blessed relief. Everything gets a little hazy, at this point, perhaps due to the amazing gas and air, perhaps I was in the zone.

One of the advantages of having a doula is they can fill in the gaps of your hazy memories of the day! 

Doula Support Birth Story. Doula pours water over mums back as she labours in the birth pool.Ali laboured at home all day. Having one contraction every three minutes from about midday to the point Brodie was born at 21:20. Not just the little breathe through it contractions. But the ones that curl your toes and make you try and glue yourself to the floor. She had a bit of gas and air and a pool. I mean MAN ALIVE she was awesome.

That kid was quite happy where he was though. Unaffected by his mum’s heroic birthing efforts.

Intensity was really building and from the look of everything, Brodie was ready to come into the world. The room was peaceful and I was able to make it through the intensity of the contractions with Vikki keeping my eye contact and reminding me to breathe. Her calmness was invaluable.

After a while, and some gas runs later, things seemed not to be moving and I couldn’t feel his head. I am absolutely an advocate of physiological birth and less focus on interventions, but there is a reason we have medicine and are fortunate to be able to access expertise.

I had received no VEs but knew at this point, although it was uncomfortable out of the water, there was something not quite right. The midwife examined my cervix and found I was 3-4cm dilated, and after the work so far, I knew I needed some relief if I was going to be able to birth him. Vikki’s calm reassurance was amazing, as I had that nagging feeling of failure, but it went.

After hours at the same dilatation and no let up in those contractions, it was time to get some help. Drugs would be good right now.

Birth is unpredictable, but with good support and knowing the decision to change to plan B is yours,  that unpredictability and positive birth are not mutually exclusive.

An ambulance came…

The ambulance ride was hell for Ali. Being told to lie down and keep still on this teeny bed are not things a woman in the throes of labour will ever take well.

She made it to the ward with only a few choice words 🤣

As they monitored her with the CTG [Cardiotocography (CTG) is a technical means of recording the fetal heartbeat and the uterine contractions during pregnancy.] it was clear the contractions were still coming thick and fast with no sign of the baby. An epidural was requested.

Your doula and your midwife will always tell you to trust your instincts and this was one time those instincts were needed and right.

Once we arrived at hospital I knew, in my heart, I was done and I needed a section. I am so grateful that I was in a position to know what was happening to my body, and feel self-assured enough to make an informed decision about the way forward.

I am indebted to my wonderful Doula for her sitting with me through the section, keeping me calm during the hardest parts of pain, and her presence reassuring me of my body and my ability to know exactly what I needed.

Ali had decided that this was the same road as Fin. She knew it. Mums always know. The baby was not coming without some assistance and trying to delay it was futile.

 

Doula Support Birth Story. Skin to skin and first breastfeed post caesarean birth.

As the doc suggested waiting a bit, Brodie’s heart rate started to dip with the contractions. [This is one sign that baby might not be coping well with labour anymore.]

He was tired, she was tired and more importantly, Ali knew this baby needed to be born by c section. And soon.

The medical staff listened to Ali and she was whizzed round to theatre. I accompanied her as by now we were pretty much one unit. The eye contact was keeping her going and she needed that.

Her totally amazing husband knew it was what she needed and totally supported her ❤

So off Ali and I went to theatre.

Little (ha!) Brodie was out in no time. He was in my arms and held up to Ali so she could get those intoxicating new baby smells and hugs as she was stitched up. [Sometimes skin to skin isn’t possible immediately but it’s never too late.]

I popped out to get Ali’s husband while she was still in recovery so he could meet his brand new baby boy 💕Doula Support Birth Story. Baby snug in a hospital crib.

It may not have been the HVAC I planned, but as Doulas, we know birth is never a sure thing. I was safe and followed my instincts as my space was held for me, with love.

What started off as pretty textbook labour (whatever that is, right?) turned in to a real need for those wonderful obstetric wizards to come out and say “Hey, it’s ok. I’m here to help you. Let’s make a plan.”

I know we moan about them a lot. Terrible communication skills and an inability to listen to the woman are most common complaints. They are often seen as the worst thing to walk through a delivery room door BUT do you know what? Sometimes we need those peeps. We need their years of training in seriously complicated surgery. They can step in and save lives.

So what can we learn about doula support from this birth story?

Doulas still need Doulas. We lose our rational brains when we’re in the zone of labour and birth and are TERRIBLE at taking our own advice.

 

Doula Support Birth Story. Doulas still need doulas. We lose our rational brains when we're in the zone of labour and birth and are terrible at taking our own advice.

Evidence for doula support

Doula support positive birth
Benefits of doula support. Satisfied with labour and birth experience.

Evidence for Doulas Support Continues to be found. Research confirms doula support has many benefits.

The best kind of evidence for doula support are all the families who feel good about the support they were given by their doula and who value and recommend doulas.

But in a society where a very high value is put on being able to show in scientific research that there are measurable benefits to things. And being people who like to be able to see the research on the measurable benefits of any interventions before deciding whether or not it is one we want to choose for ourselves. We think it’s really great whenever the Cochrane Library reviews the evidence on continuous support through labour and birth. The conclusion is that the kind of support we provide results in many potential benefits for the mother and baby.

The most recent review which came out July 2017 concluded:

“Continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for women and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low- five-minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences. We found no evidence of harms of continuous labour support.”

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub6/full

There are more details if you want to read them in the full report via the link. The Cochrane Library is a great place to go and read up on anything related to pregnancy labour and birth especially because they provide a plain English version of the conclusions of their research reviews which is really helpful for those of us with no medical degree but who want to have all the information before making decisions.

Hampshire Doulas still believe the most important benefit of the support we provide is how our clients feel about themselves and the births they have.

Caesarean birth

Caesarean Birth Doula Support Birth Story

During world doula week 2017 we were privileged to be able to share a series of stories from people who have benefited from doula support.  A common misconception is that doulas only support ‘natural’ births but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Vickie’s baby was born by planned caesarean birth and she found the support of her doula invaluable. Doula support can also be valuable when your baby is born by unplanned caesarean check out this birth story for more about that.

How did you hear about doulas?

I heard about Doulas from Mumsnet and from a friend who I ended up choosing as my Doula.

Why did you want a doula?

I have complicated pregnancies, and having had a really terrible experience with my second child, I wanted an informed third party to advocate for me, and act in my interests as I didn’t feel my partner was confident enough to fully assert my wishes.

How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?

My family had no clue what a doula was, but when I explained it they all said having someone with both medical and holistic information was a great idea. My partner was equally confused initially, but valued the support particularly when our daughter was taken straight to NICU.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

My Doula gave me information on my birth options, even down to types of caesarian, and empowered me to actually request these things. She came to consultant appointments and translated the medicalised language used, and was another pair of ears.

What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?

My birth was a planned section at 33 weeks, my doula arrived on the morning of the section with my partner, and massaged my legs, and helped me decompress from the previous horrid evening. She advocated for me as there was some confusion regarding whether the birth was happening that day. My Doula went with my partner to NICU to meet our daughter, which was a comfort to him in such an alien environment.

What did she do after the baby was born?Caesarean Birth Doula Support Baby in NICU

My Doula acted as a buffer between me and the rest of the world, which was needed as I was exhausted, had lost a lot of blood and had a baby in NICU. She provided me with information and encouraged me.

What was the best thing about having a doula?

Having another female to support, inform, and advocate for me. Someone who fully understood and unconditionally supported my decisions. This was especially valuable in a situation where a partner may not fully understand what you are experiencing.

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

I have, and will continue to! Such a positive experience that every woman should be able to have!

Home birth after c-section

Home Birth After C-Section Birth Story

During World Doula Week we are sharing a series of interviews with people who have benefited from doula support. Emily and Stuart’s first baby was born by c-section and their second baby was born at home in the birth pool with the support of both a doula and an independent midwife.

How did you hear about doulas?

I met a doula in a breastfeeding support group who explained what doulas were.

Why did you want a doula?

In my first pregnancy, I felt clueless and unsupported. I felt I had to go along with everything I was told to do without having it explained to me. I felt that with a doula to support me I would be more confident finding all the information I needed to make decisions. I felt I would be more confident asking questions. I also felt I would be more confident making and expressing my decisions. I felt I would have someone to be my back up if I disagreed with what I was told to do.

I also wanted more support for my partner because he felt pushed out during my first pregnancy and birth. I knew that a doula would support us both and help him to feel involved and confident with asking questions and talking to health professionals. I knew it would also help him feel more confident during the birth. Home birth After C-Section Mum and Dad Holding Hands

How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?

My partner thought it was a good idea, he was keen to have that support just like me. My family were confused about what a doula would do and how one was different to a midwife. Once explained, they were supportive of the idea. My mum had another job looking after my eldest which helped her not feel too disappointed at not being a birth partner.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

My doula supported me in a meeting with the hospital to review the notes from my first pregnancy. This was good as it helped me to get closure on what had happened. We also did birth partner training with our doula which helped my partner know what to expect and how to support me through the stages of birth.

My doula reassured us that no matter what happened on the day she would support us to make birth a positive experience regardless of anything that came up which might cause us to change our plans for the birth.

She suggested alternative therapies and comfort measures for dealing with the aches and pains of pregnancy, labour and after childbirth and to help my body get ready and go into labour naturally.

If I or my partner had any questions I could always ask my doula and she would support me finding answers or reassure me what was normal, keeping me away from the worry that can come with googling!

My doula supported me at hospital appointments when I had an ICP diagnosis (this is a rare liver condition associated with pregnancy there’s more information here http://www.icpsupport.org/ ).  She supported me thinking through and making decisions around plans for if I needed to be induced or potentially to choose a c-section as a result of this condition.

She supported me when pre-labour started and stopped. Including one occasion when things seemed to be happening one evening, she came round to our house and then helped me stay positive when everything stopped.

What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?

I first called in my doula at 4 am when I was having contractions and my son was awake and needed attention. She provided an extra person to occupy my son, or set up the birth pool or support me.

In the morning, she helped my son get ready for a party he’d been invited to and co-ordinated a friend to pick him up and look after him for the day so I could rest and focus.

She tried to encourage me to eat and drink to keep up my energy through the day. She kept this up gently even when I wasn’t keen to eat as I was struggling with nausea and vomiting. She helped to keep track of how frequent contractions were and also encouraged my husband to eat and drink to keep up his strength too.

My doula helped me deal with sickness with acupressure, massage and essential oils and by avoiding strong food smells and helped me choose small amounts of food that I could manage. She also caught my sick for me (in a bowl) when that became necessary.

She helped my husband fill the pool the first time and empty and refill the pool when it got cold and needed reheating.

She reminded me to get out and go to the toilet and encouraged me to change positions to help keep things moving.

She allowed my husband to be able to focus on supporting me in the way I needed him to and not be distracted by all the practical things that also needed doing.
She took turns with my husband providing physical support when he needed to rest, eat or go to the toilet. She used hand massage during contractions. This helped because I was more able to concentrate on my hand being held which distracted me from the intensity of my contractions.

She also took photos and video during the labour and when our baby was born. Although I didn’t notice this happening at the time I enjoyed looking at them after my baby was bornHome Birth After C-Section. That moment you know you did it. .

What did she do after the baby was born?

My doula helped to empty the pool and take it down after the birth. She put fresh sheets on our bed making it all comfortable to get into with our new baby to sleep. Which was a real relief and allowed us to relax and enjoy our baby rather than worry about those practical things.

She made a placenta smoothie right after the birth and prepared the placenta into ice cube trays for freezing for future smoothies.

What was the best thing about having a doula?

Knowing that I had someone with me who would be sure to stay calm and have a level head. Knowing even if something happened that might have made me and my partner feel confused or upset someone would keep us calm. That we had someone who would be on our side whatever situation occurred.

 

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

Yes, I regularly do. 😊

 

If you make the choice to have another C-Section Birth after your previous C-Section that’s another choice your doula will support. Check out this birth story for more information.

 

 

 

Three babies two doulas, induced labours

Labour Induction Doula Support Birth Story.

For World Doula Week we’re running a series of interviews with families who have had the support of a doula or in this case two doulas. Emma laboured in hospital calmly and peacefully with her doulas’ support.

How did you hear about doulas?

I heard about Doulas during my second pregnancy. They were recommended to me when I sought advice on anxiety during birth as I had ptsd from giving birth to my first child. (Editor’s note: traumatic birth can often have a huge effect on mothers -and also on fathers -if you are struggling with processing your birth memories of a birth or if they are causing you to struggle with your mental health you are not alone. You can call a doula at any time and many will be able to help you talk through and debrief your experiences. You may also need to talk to your GP who will be able to help you access to mental health support if needed. You may also find it’s helpful to contact the birth trauma association who can provide both trained and peer support options.)

Why did you want a doula?

I wanted a doula to play the role I always imagined a supportive mother would play with more experience, confidence and wisdom. I also wanted a doula to help me overcome fear. My first doula taught me how to view birth as a natural experience instead of a life and death hospital procedure.

How did your partner feel about the idea when you first bought it up?

My partner was very keen to have a doula again in my third pregnancy as he totally understood the benefit of feeling supported in labour and for him – it was his first birth. He too believed that birth was an empowering natural phenomenon. He also understood my anxiety and the need for someone experienced to make sure our wishes were respected.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

My doula was on the end of the phone for a month before the birth as my baby was late. I was very anxious as I did not want to give birth in hospital due to my ptsd. My doula was calming, supportive and informative. I had many false labours too which she supported me well though.

What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?iolbaby

She attended the hospital with us before the induction having counselled me the night before. She stayed with us the whole time. In the labour, she supported my partner as I actually just went into myself and laboured with my eyes closed and headphones on. I am sure she was very valuable at this time but I was elsewhere! I felt very safe with just her and my partner and laboured up until my first push in blissful peace. She held one hand, my partner held the other and with just a few pushes my baby was here.

What did she do after the baby was born?

My doula nurtured me and my partner from this point. She followed my every wish and when I was ready she took me to clean up. She took care of my every need whilst daddy snuggled up with baby.

What was the best thing about having a doula?

Feeling safe and confident. Empowered.  Without her I couldn’t have retreated into myself.

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

Definitely. With Doulas my births have been amazing experiences. The second birth was pleasurable despite being induced. The third was harder due to baby refusing to be induced but still a pleasure. I had no fear.

 

Third baby, first time with a doula

Home Birth, Doula Support, Third Baby Birth Story.

Home Birth Doula Support is just one of the birth choices doulas will support. For World Doula Week 2017 we shared a series of interviews with people who experienced doula support. This is the birth story of Sarah who runs Hampshire doulas and who was lucky enough to have a doula for her third birth. For a birth story of a doula supported hospital birth check out this post.

How did you hear about doulas?

I can’t remember when I heard of doulas. I read a lot during my first pregnancy and I think doulas were probably mentioned in at least one of the books or if not for sure on one of the websites. It wasn’t until after my second birth that my interest and understanding grew and I discovered it was what I had always wanted to do but never realised.

Why did you want a doula?

Being a doula myself, when I fell pregnant, one of the things I was excited about was that I would be able to have a doula. I knew all of the statistics and that I would be more likely to have the birth I wanted with a doula to support my husband and me and I knew from the experience of my clients that whatever this baby and this birth had in store for me I would feel more positive through it all with a doula by our sides.

How did your partner and wider family feel about the idea of a doula when you first brought it up?

My husband knew more than most about what doulas are like and how they work and expected me to want one when we found out about our daughter was on the way. He was known to joke that we were getting a doula so he could spend more time playing on the play station with his day off for the birth. But really, he knew it was a good idea because he knew how much practical work there is at a homebirth and was glad to have someone to share the responsibility with.

My extended family were the same well aware of the benefits of doulas and mostly just thought it was our business what we did around our baby’s birth. I find that the most common reaction I get when asked to explain what doulas do is wow I would have loved that for my birth.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

One benefit I discovered that I hadn’t realised a doula provides in the run-up to my birth was having someone who was as interested as I was in my pregnancy and upcoming birth. If a thought occurred to me about my birth plan or I was worried about something there was always someone I knew I could talk to and not think they’d probably had enough of me going on about birth or babies!

I had a trial run of labour when I thought my waters had gone and started having regular mild to medium contractions. This was the only time it was difficult being the client rather than the doula because although I knew nothing was happening for quite a while I also knew that I had told my doula (as I should have done -us doulas like to know) what was going on and after that I kept thinking about how she was feeling wondering what was going on. When you’re a doula and a client goes into labour but doesn’t need you yet and then you don’t hear from them for a while you try to relax and know that they will call when they need you but the little niggle is always there at the back of your head, what if everything went fast and sudden and they haven’t had the chance to call me and then you worry about them just a little. So, although I knew nothing interesting was happening I tried to keep my doula up to date! This was also helpful to me because it meant I knew I was not in active labour because I was able to think rationally about whether to call my doula over or not!

I did call my doula over in the end and she made herself very useful. She worked with my husband to find and patch the hole in the birth pool! We pottered around through the night and everyone had a nap. It was after that I realised I wasn’t having contractions. We tried a few things to get my contractions going again. My doula made herself useful partly by keeping the clary sage oil in the burner going. But no success so I sent her home and had a quiet day.

What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?

The next evening when I started having contractions again I kept it to myself as I didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up again with nothing to show for it. I went to bed and slept between the contractions which were coming about every 15 minutes. I got up at about 4 am as I couldn’t sleep any longer. By 5 am I was fairly confident this was the real thing as the contractions were much stronger and were regular. I woke my husband up at 6 am and asked him to put my TENS machine on. By 7 am he had the pool inflated and my doula on her way and my kids and mum were up. I bounced on my ball chatted to the boys and breathed through my contractions. My mum took the kids to school and my doula arrived. She was immediately able to give my husband confidence that he should, as he thought, call the midwives even though I hadn’t asked him too!

My doula helped me get myself sorted out with my top and into the pool.Home Birth Doula Support Baby Born in Birth Pool She remained calm as I started to make pushy noises and asked how long the midwives would be and helped my husband to keep calm too. When I needed to have my husband right there to hang on to through the last bit of my labour my doula was able to keep up the practical tasks around us, passing me a drink, sorting out the music and the oil burner. When I felt my baby’s head crowning I asked her to get the camera and she took a brilliant set of photos of the arrival of my daughter which I really treasure.

What did she do after the baby was born?

After my baby arrived my doula helped my mum and my husband to clean up and helped me to snuggle on the sofa skin to skin with baby. She took more lovely photos and helped me upstairs to have a shower when I was ready. I was able to relax and enjoy my baby. My doula provided us with amazing chocolate brownies to eat after our baby was born which my older children would list as the number one benefit of doula support!

What was the best thing about having a doula?

For me, the best thing was the relaxation of knowing there was someone who knew me really well who would be there with me and my husband whatever happened and who would understand and support my point of view unconditionally.

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

Yes, I do constantly even though it can’t be me at the moment. I believe every family can benefit from doula support. This is the reason I put my time and energy into Hampshire Doulas so we can increase awareness and provide information so that more families can discover this wonderful addition to their birth team.

 

Planning a positive birth

Planning a Positive Birth. 5 top tips.

In a previous post, we established what a positive birth is as far as the Hampshire Doulas are concerned. Now it’s time to get practical with some tips for enjoying your birth.

(Please note the book links in this post are affiliate links if you click through and choose to buy these wonderful books I will receive a small amount of commission but even if I didn’t I’d still recommend them).Planning a Positive Birth. How do I plan a positive birth? Learn about birth and surround yourself with loving supportive people.

I asked the Hampshire doulas for their top tips for planning and having a positive birth. They came up with some varied ideas but when it comes down to it we’re all saying the same thing, surround yourself with positive people, people who know about birth and how good it can be. Choose people you can trust to be honest with you not sugar coat things but focus on what’s under your control. How can you do that?

Here are our top 5 ideas.

      1. Join a Positive Birth Group. There are Positive Birth groups all over the world. These are a network of groups where pregnant women come together and support each other. There are no experts and no medical opinions it’s just women sharing their positive experiences with each other.
      2. Read and watch positive birth stories. There are lots of places to read positive birth stories online. The Birth Without Fear Blog is a very good place to start. There are lots of positive birth stories on youtube too. On the flip side avoid watching popular tv programs that feature birth, they’re edited for drama not education.  If you prefer to read on paper this book is a good start.
      3. Get the negativity off your chest before the big day. If you have fears and worries about labour or birth and how you will cope talk them through with someone who knows about birth. If you had a previous negative birth experience consider having a birth debrief (ask your midwife to refer you to this service at your local hospital) or finding a counsellor who can help you move forward and work through any trauma you’re still carrying. You might also find this book helpful.
      4. Learn about birth. Most doulas will have a few good books they can lend you to read. These will help you start learning how our bodies work when it comes to birth and what the range of possibilities might be for working with your body and cope with your contractions. A good antenatal course such as a hypnobirth course will help with this too and of course your antenatal sessions with your doula. Here are some of the books we recommend and lend out most often.


      5. Make a really good birth plan. Writing a birth plan has a value of itself regardless of who reads it on the day. The most important thing about birth planning is the process of thinking through what might happen and working out what choices you would like to make in many different situations. Writing a birth plan together is a great opportunity to have a really good talk with your partner about your expectations and what they can do to best support you through all the stages of labour.  Having a doula or a well-trained birth partner with you who knows your birth plan in their head (and has an easy to read short and sweet copy to refer to in their back pocket) might be the absolute top thing you can do for yourself. But it’s important they and you know what plan B and plan C are as well as being able to focus on plan A and all the things that will give you the best chance of plan A being the only one you need on the day.

 

Put it all in one sentence: how do I plan a positive birth? Learn about birth and surround yourself with loving supportive people.

planning a positive birth 5 tips