The NHS is one of our greatest national treasures. Free healthcare for all in an unbiased way gives opportunity, brings freedom, and can heal and save lives. This is exactly how access to medical advice and treatment should be.
The benefits of, and the need for continuity of carer for expectant mothers is recognised and the implementation of this is currently being rolled out by the NHS. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, and these plans come at a time when the healthcare system, as a whole, is overstretched.
Nursing and midwifery staff who do a wonderful job, are often overworked, working long hours and maternity teams can be under resourced. Medical staff run a serious risk of becoming burnt out. Already popular in the Netherlands and America with demands on midwives and the NHS, there is an ever growing Doula industry here in the UK.
Challenges – becoming a new parent
For new and expectant families, sometimes it is a challenge being pregnant, bringing a new life into the world and taking care of a new baby. Every day a pregnancy is confirmed, and it can be confusing knowing what the best thing is to do for both you and your baby. In an already overstretched healthcare system, an absence of continuity of carer and, sometimes even, patient led care can make it even harder to know which way to turn.
This is especially true if you’re a first time mother or a family who has previously suffered a pregnancy or birth related trauma.
Alarmingly, research shows Black and Asian women, respectively, are 5 and 2 times more likely to die in childbirth in comparison to their White counterparts.
Every mother has the right to a safe and dignified birth and becoming pregnant and giving birth should be a wonderful experience. Equally this is one of the most vulnerable periods of a woman’s life; both emotionally and physically. During our life cycle, other than childhood development, the perinatal period brings about the body’s vastest series of changes, as the body commences a rollercoaster of development and growth.
The main obstacle expectant and new parents face is lack of support, evidence based information and knowledge during pregnancy and postnatally, which can lead to negative birth experiences and higher instances of morbidity. When a pregnancy and/or labour does not go according to plan, it can result in feelings of lack of control, disappointment and negative memories of the birthing experience which, in turn, can lead to poorer health outcomes for the mother and baby.
Our birthing experiences stay with us forever, impacting on relationships with those closest to us, so it is important to strive to get the optimal experience possible.
The solution – togetherness, support and evidence based information
Today, the nearest alternative to NHS midwives is private midwives, but of course, they are costly; often doubling or even tripling the price of a Doula and as a result they are often not affordable and therefore out of reach for many.
With pressures on the NHS, the problem could get worse over time.
The appointment of a Doula is an easier and more cost effective way to provide continuity of perinatal support, so new and expectant parents feel supported and can exercise informed choice, increasing their chance of delivering safely and more happily; ultimately resulting in a smoother transition to parenthood and positive birthing memories. And, although not a medical role, a Doula service alleviates some of the current pressures and strains on the NHS and, in particular, on maternity teams. Why? Because having a Doula is known to have numerous immediate and long term benefits, which can result in lower instances of morbidity.
The solution to all of this is working together to provide information and facts. A qualified Doula will provide practical and emotional support, as well as, evidence based information. As with anything else in life; information is power.
But wait, before you run out and book your Doula, read up on what to expect, think about having a birth plan and a backup birth plan in case things need to change. Deliberate on how you want to feed your baby and what impact a new life will have on you and your loved ones. Once you have an idea of how you would like your perinatal period to unfold, it is the perfect time to get informed support.
Parenthood is, without doubt, one of the most demanding roles but equally it is the most rewarding. Discuss options available to you and be prepared to ask questions. Why? What does that mean to me? What are the benefits? Are there any risks? Is there any other option?
With tens of thousands of women giving birth each year in London alone, the vocation of a Doula is a clear opportunity to make a meaningful and positive impact on a huge number of mothers, their families and the staff that support them.