Happy World Doula Week! Now, there is no reason why you would necessarily know that it is World Doula Week, unless you are an avid fan of all things doula, but WDW is drawing to a close and I wanted to reference it! The exciting thing for me about WDW is it gave me the opportunity to revisit all my doula client information in order to complete a comprehensive survey by Doula UK to look into the effectiveness of doula support.
Members of Doula UK were asked to provide as much information about the clients they had supported, both birth and postnatal, in order to see just what a difference can be made by having emotional and practical support during that time. In over 1100 clients the results showed that the necessity for instrumental intervention or caesarean was only 12% as opposed to 37.3% (national figures from the Department of Health). And, breastfeeding results were stunning, with 93% initiating breastfeeding (as opposed to 74.1%), with 70% still exclusively breastfeeding at 6 weeks, agains t a 47% national rate. I felt incredibly proud to have contributed (or rather that my clients contributed) to those figures.
What it proves to me is that continuity of care, effective preparation and emotional support make a huge and valuable contribution to a woman, and her partner’s experience of birth. I don’t claim to be able to wave a magic wand and prevent things from happening during a birth or in the postnatal period that someone wanted to avoid, but I do think I am able to listen, signpost to the relevant information and help people make informed choices. The breastfeeding results particularly show just how valuable that emotional and practical support can be, and this has been borne out recently in talking to new Mums who, for various reasons, have given up breastfeeding.
It is such an emotive issue and it saddens me that there just isn’t enough support for women in those early days when so many breastfeeding issues can be ironed out. The brief times I spend on the postnatal ward at St Thomas’s Hospital have shown me just how necessary having someone sitting by your bedside for half an hour or more in the first day or so after the birth is. I am loving the experience of metaphorically, and sometimes literally, holding a Mum’s hand as she takes the next step forward after giving birth. I hope I don’t give off the impression of being utterly rigid in my expectation of a woman breastfeeding – in fact I support whatever informed decision a woman chooses to make about feeding – but, too often I have seen women let down by lack of adequate help and no provision of up-to-date/research-based information and I wish that things were different in this, our supposedly progressive and developed country. For the Doula UK press release relating to the survey, visit doula.org.uk/content/doula-uk-survey-shows-doulas-have-significant-impact-birth-and-breastfeeding.