What is a doula?
Translated from Greek, doula means hand servant. In our modern world, this means a birth attendant who supports the woman and her partner through her labour, giving encouragement and care that will help her to find her inner strength and ability to birth her baby.
Women often feel more relaxed calm and confident, when labouring with the support of an experienced doula. The trust that has been built throughout our contact, and continuity of care, helps the woman deal better with the ebbs and flows of the labour and enable her to let go. Research has shown that having a doula present at birth can lower a number of interventions and instrumental deliveries necessary.
This year – 2016 is the 23rd anniversary of my work as a doula. I have attended many births, at home and in various hospitals in and around London, especially East, North East & Greater London. (Hospitals I have attended are UCL, St Thomas’s, Lewisham Hospital Birth Centre , King Georges’s in Essex, the new Queens Hospital in Romford, Homerton, Whipps Cross, Princess Alexander, Whittington and Newham General)
Some of these births are straightforward and others are challenging, but all are deeply rewarding. I am happy to attend any birth and will support the women’s wishes entirely. In the past, I have attended a variety of birth from the normal water birth to VBACS, twin births and uniquely have attended a double VBAC with two women.
My goal as a doula is to help create the space so that the woman and her partner find their ‘birth dance’. The labour dynamics can be challenging, beautiful, gentle and the energy between the two of them is powerful, intense, personal and funny all at once.
This is often the first time the woman’s partner has seen her in pain, or more importantly, out of control. For the partner, this may be stressful and concerning. A woman’s partner often feels the pressure of needing to know everything that is happening, at any given time.
This can create a state of anxiety and can be stressful for both the partner and the labouring woman. By having a doula present, their anxiety is reduced, and the couple will then be able to let go a little so that she can find an inner stillness; and be with what is happening in the here and now. Let’s find a way to dance your baby out.
I am really passionate about supporting couples and feel very honoured to have been invited to support the couple at their birth.
It is standard practice for there to be a meeting well before the birth, giving us time to get to know each other to build the trust that is needed for such a special relationship. I will only take on the minimum of 2 women in any month. So that I can give you that time and peace of mind, that when you call me to be at your birth, I will be there. Once I am on call, my phone will be by my side and I will always be available to answer any queries, big or small.
As a birth doula, I am on call for the 2-3 weeks before your due date and 2-3 weeks thereafter. Even if you are overdue. Yes, that’s right, there is no cutoff point until the baby is born. I will attend the birth and will be in constant communication via phone calls, text messaging and emails if needed in the lead up to labour. We will spend some time before the birth discussing and preparing for the birth. Once your home and settled, approximately 10 days (unless you want me to visit earlier) there will be a postnatal visit. If plans change, we can renegotiate where needed.
There is a wide assumption that only people with money can afford a doula. In places like Holland Doulas have been a part of their maternity services for a very long time now. Most dutch women I have their babies at home with the support of a doula and those that need to go to hospital have a doula come back with them to help them settle in the postnatal period.
Things are changing in this country and DUK is dedicated to helping most women have a doula if they need one. The Access Fund is for that very reason. With the Access Fund, the doula works as a volunteer and only gets expenses. Not all doulas can offer this service, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to offer Access Fund, but if you go the DUK website you will be able to find a Doula that is happy to work with you.
How can I afford a doula? :Here is a suggestion: if you feel you need a doula to support you; consider having a frank and honest conversation with friends and family. Invite them to be part of this dream of possibilities to have a doula at your birth. They may be willing to gift or donate towards having a birth doula or postnatal doula. Grandparents, work colleagues and friends often times are searching for an appropriate present to give the couple at this special time. Allow them to support you at this time and celebrate with a gift towards getting the doula support you need for your birth.
For details of the packages on offer contact Arlene on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07976903003. www.doula.org.uk/about/arlenedunkley-wood As a member of DUK I abide by their code of conduct.
I am dedicated to continual learning and as such attend regular peer support and CPD study days. I keep current with what is happening with local hospitals and have a good working relationship with health professionals. In the past, I have been a member of MSLC in a number of hospitals situated in Barts Health – namely Queens Romford and Whipps Cross Hospital. I currently teach prenatal Yoga/Birth classes at The Barkantine Practice in Isle of Dogs.
As an Active Birth Teacher, I also offer birth preparation workshops to couples as a separate preparation.
“I was going to see Arlene for pregnancy massage and cranio therapy since I found out I was pregnant. It was a great support for my constantly changing body, plus Arlene’s knowledge made me feel stress free as she shared her opinions on many pregnancy related issues.
It became clear to me that with her calm attitude and extensive knowledge that I wanted Arlene to be our doula during the birth of our baby boy Leo.
Arlene was on a 24/7 call with her support for 2 weeks prior to my due date and was checking on me if I haven’t text her with the update.
On a birth day, she was constantly on a phone with me and eventually she decided it’s time for her to come to our house.
She arrived early in the morning and we managed to go through a lot of contractions before I noticed her approval that I was ready to go to the birth centre.
We arrived after a short ride and a small London traffic and to my happiness I learned I was already 7 cm dilated.
Arlene, was next to me throughout the whole process, again sharing her knowledge and gently giving pointers on what might help me.
Having her next to me was very reassuring and had a calming effect on both myself and my husband.
Can’t wait to ask Arlene for her assistance with our second baby! ” Urszula & baby Leo, June 2014
The birth of our second child Jonah was so different from the traumatic first delivery we had 5 years ago. Having arlene as my doula, helped us not only in the birth but in the lead up to the birth. She was able to help guide us to get the best care we needed at the hospital of our choice. We felt really PRIVILEGED to get such good care and support… I was initially really nervous about the birth.. but soon after our consultation meeting I felt at ease… Jonah was born 1st December and having my doula present helped me stay calm and relaxed. in a funny way both my partner and I enjoyed the whole labour process, even when times where tough. …. Lucy & Marc DEC 2013
Arlene was my doula for the birth of my second son in September 2011. When we first met her I warmed to her instantly and knew I would like her as my birth doula. Throughout my pregnancy she supported me and encouraged me and motivated me through her fantastic pregnancy yoga sessions. She was a brilliant companion at our special VBAC birth providing me with loving, caring support. She did anything I asked of her and I will never forget how much she helped me and my husband achieve our much wanted natural birth. A true professional and her loving, kind nature make her the perfect doula. Ozlem 2011
My VBAC birth was the most amazing experience. I was told I could not birth my baby and trusted the medics for two births 8 and 6 years previously, both of which were c-sections. But when it came to my third pregnancy, I knew I wanted do everything within my power to birth our son naturally. With the help of Arlene I was able to achieve that…. It was the most amazing experience. Both my partner and I felt really blessed to have had this experience together. Thank you. Geseire Dec 2013.