All about Doulas

Last week we held a Q and A session with Rebecca SchillerDoula UK recognised birth doula and co-chair of Birthrights.  We invited our followers to post their questions about Doulas and Rebecca answered them live over twitter.

Here we have posted all the questions and answers together which is easier than trying to follow a very long twitter feed.

If you have any more questions on the subject, please do get in touch with either us or Rebecca Schiller.


  • I have fast deliveries and home births. Is it worth me hiring a doula so I’m not alone before the MW arrives?

I’ve supported women with previous fast deliveries.They’ve found the antenatal preparation really useful,especially working with the midwives to make plans to get someone there quickly.A doula can never replace the medical care a midwife would give but would be comfortable getting to you earlier in labour than the midwives normally do and can help you make the decision about when to call the midwife. I had v fast births myself and though my doula didn’t make either I loved her support before and after


  • What is the difference between a Midwife and a Doula?

Midwives have the clinical training and expertise to look after yours and your baby’s welfare. Doulas are additional team members providing continuous and unconditional emotional and practical support to the woman & her partner.


  • Will a Doula teach me things or just support me at the birth?

Doulas will give you plenty of information antenatally and signpost you to where you can find out more for yourself. You get to direct what you need and want from your doula antenatally and all doulas have different skills and ways of working. I tend to do lots of work with women who’ve had previously traumatic births & we spend lots of time debriefing & making plans for a more positive next birth.Often do lots of talking/writing/drawing exercises together. But v much led by clients. We all think that most of our work as birth doulas is done before the birth!


  • How much does a Doula cost?

Costs vary. Doula UK has an access fund to enable those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access birth and postnatal doulas without a charge.Mentored (new) doulas usually charge under £300.Experienced doulas will charge more than this.In London v experienced doulas can charge up to £2000,though usually lower elsewhere.This sounds a lot,but when you consider that you are booking them for 4 weeks exclusive on call where they won’t go far/drink/always have childcare, several antenatal & & postnatal appointments,phone & email support AND they will walk out the door to you not knowing if they’ll be gone for 2 hours or 2 days it suddenly makes sense.


  • Do midwives like working with Doulas?

In the vast majority of cases midwives and doulas (and doctors!) get on really well. There may be initial worry if they haven’t worked with a doula before but I see it as my job to be friendly,helpful,understanding & make sure we get on. the team Doula UK is also building lots of links with midwives. We meet with the Royal College of Midwives,give talks to student and experienced midwives and generally try to make things as smooth as possible.


  • I have a doula and she wants me to have a home birth but i am very anxious as it is my first baby, i would love another opinion.

A doula should never be advising you on which course of action to take when it comes to any of your pregnancy/birth/feeding decisions. A doula will usually make sure you know all your options though.I certainly see it as part of my job to make sure women know they can have their 1st or 15th babies at home and signpost them to where to find out more. If you aren’t keen your doula should step back and support your choice 100%. It may be worth having a chat with your doula and letting her know exactly how you feel.


  • If I want to have a birth with no medical intervention, will a Doula support me?

Many women hire doulas because they are keen to have a birth without intervention and are aware that studies show having a doula to support you makes that significantly more likely. We of course can’t guarantee what kind of birth you will have and will also work with women to make sure they have good plans in place to deal with changes in the birth plan if needed. They will remind women and partners to ask the right qns if intervention is suggested,help remind of other options and ultimately help make any intervention as positive as possible and be there afterwards to debrief if things don’t go to plan.


  • Are doulas able to help with Hospital births or just homebirths?

Doulas are there to support all births: home births,birth centres,labour-wards,epidurals,caesareans.Many women say we are particularly useful to them in hospital where they feel less at home and they are meeting the staff for the first time.


  • What training do Doulas have?

Doulas aren’t a compulsorily regulated profession but many women want to hire a doula who is a member of Doula UK.  Members have to attend an approved preparation course,go through a period of having a mentor,sign up to a code of conduct and philosophy. The preparation course ensure doulas understand about birth physiology,have debriefed their own birth/feeding experiences,are well-versed in the boundaries of the job and more.Most doulas carry on doing additional study days and reading. We are always learning.


  • What made you want to become a Doula? What’s the hardest thing about being a doula?

I had a doula when I had my first baby & suddenly felt I had a vocation.I loved it instantly. The hardest things: being on call for long periods really restricts your life, you can end up missing things you really wanted to do. I once missed a spa holiday with my mum when a client went past 42 weeks!Got to spa, put on robe,got the call! it’s also hard when a client has a poorly baby or is unwell themselves.I do get very emotionally involved – I think we all do.


  • What is the best thing about being a Doula?

When you see a woman look at her baby and realise she made and birthed this little creature and she feels proud of herself.


  • I’m a single mother and what a Doula to be my sole birth partner is this possible?

Absolutely! I’ve been sole birth partner a few times now. It does change the role slightly as you have to work out when to have your doula hat on and when to have your birth partner hat on.Needs lots of antenatal chat to work out boundaries and what happens if the mother is deep in labour and there are decisions to be made.It makes it an even more full-on job but very rewarding and can work well.


  • I know that new doulas are much cheaper but I’m worried that they won’t be able to help as much as an experienced Doula do you have any advice?

New doulas won’t be as experienced but if you meet one and get on well that’s about 95% of the job done!Doulas don’t need encyclopaedic knowledge, they need to be tuned in to you and someone you feel comfortable with.They will also have a mentor in the background to support them.That being said I know I’ve learned lots since I started that helps me be the best doula I can be. Experienced doulas are great, but if budgets are tight a mentored doula is a great option.