Women have been supporting each other during birth since the beginning of time. A recent Cochrane Review of over 15,000 women showed that continuous support during labour by a woman who is not part of your family, social network or hospital staff reduces risks of intervention and increases the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth. Women who have the support of a doula report having more satisfying birth experiences and more success with breastfeeding.
The modern day doula has often undertaken extensive preparation and education and if affiliated to Doula UK, works to a philosophy and code of conduct. A doula will spend time with you and your family as you plan your homebirth and remain with you throughout labour regardless of length or where your journey takes you. She will get to know you all and what is important to you so that she can help ensure your wishes and choices are listened to and respected. Doulas often loan birth pools and other useful resources and my be trained in specialist services such as Hypnobirthing, massage or Placenta Encapsulation.
To search for a doula click on the links below. Doulas are not required to be a member of Doula UK so this list is not exhaustive. Doulas will usually have their own individual websites too and can be found through a google search.
Doula UK also have a fund to help families access the continuous support of a doula who might not be able to due to financial reasons. To apply to the fund email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here for more details.
Independent Midwives (IM) are self-employed and work completely independently of any hospital and the NHS. They offer what is considered to be the gold-standard level of maternity care, which is case loading, one-to-one midwifery care. IMs practice freely of any protocols and policies, rather are guided primarily by women’s choice, combined with most recent and reliable research evidence, whilst also following The Code and Standards of practice as outlined by the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council).
Independent Midwives specialise in supporting home birth for both low and high risk women and often support women who are labelled ‘high risk’, such as those who have previous caesarean sections, breech babies, multiple pregnancies, etc. and often have expertise in a variety of other alternative therapies including homeopathy, aromatherapy, rebozo, etc. If a woman chooses to birth in a hospital or birth centre or transfers in from a planned home birth, her IM can attend as a birth supporter but cannot act as a Midwife in the hospital setting.
There are currently only around 100 or so Independent Midwives in the UK. Some are members of IM UK and women looking into hiring an Independent Midwife can do a search based on postal code here.
It is important to note that all Independent Midwives currently practice without Indemnity Insurance but this will become illegal from October 2013. This is because there is currently no insurance available at present, therefore women book an Independent Midwife understanding and accepting all the facts around this issue. Further details on this can be found here and you can sign the petition to protect independent midwifery here.
By hiring an Independent Midwife, a woman increases her chances of having a successful vaginal birth and reduces the risk of having interventions, such as instrumental deliveries including caesarean sections. Women also report higher satisfaction with the care they received from Independent Midwives. Each Midwife will have her own data and statistics, which can be produced upon request.
For comparison, the statistics of your local NHS Trusts can be found here.