20 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR POTENTIAL DOULA

A Doula or Birthkeeper can be an invaluable member of your birth support team. But what should you ask about when you contact them? Find your twenty questions here!

Birthkeeper Doula

WHEN MAKING INITIAL CONTACT 

1. Will you be available around my due date? This isn’t something that I can answer in a blog post!  Contact me here to find out!

2. How much does it cost? And when do I need to pay by? My current fees can be found here on my doula page.  The deposit is non refundable and payable at booking to secure my time.  The remainder is due at your 37 week Birth Planning appointment and before I go on call for you.  

DURING FACE TO FACE INTERVIEW

3. Have you been a doula long? What is your experience? I am a qualified but no longer registered Midwife and I have been working as a Doula/Birthkeeper since 2021.  I have been supporting women since 2005 and in an informal way before then.

4. Whats the difference between a doula and a birth keeper?  A doula is a birth support person who will support you to have your baby in the location of your choosing.  A birthkeeper is someone who has a deep trust and knowledge of physiologically natural birth and will support you to freebirth at home.

5. What happens if you are sick and can’t attend my birth? The Doula’s in Kent Doula Collective work collaboratively together.  We will stand in for one another at short notice if we can.  Sometimes we arrange shared care where you will get to meet the other doula as part of your care package and we will both be on call for your birth. 

6. Do you carry insurance? I am currently insured for both my hypnobirthing practice and Doula services with Holistic Insurance.

7. What training have you completed? 2005 Breastfeeding Peer Supporter Training’ 2006-2009 Midwifery Degree with Canterbury Christchurch University;  2021 Calmbirths Hypnobirthing training, 2021 Developing Doulas training; 2022 LYB Expansion Teacher training.  I have committed to being a life long learner and have undertaken far too many courses and study days to mention them all.  I am continuing this practice now I am no longer working as a midwife.

8. Which bits of the Role do you enjoy the most? Being a birthkeeper doula is an absolute delight.  I have all of the joy of emotionally supporting women with none of the clinical responsibility.  I love teaching hypnobirthing to my clients and seeing the pennies drop for both you and your birth partners.

9. What do you think makes you a good doula?  I have a peaceful personality, I understand the need for quiet at a birth, I instinctively know when to do and when to just be.  

10. Do you normally get on well with other Health Professionals?  I used to be one!  So I know that there are people that I like, people that don’t hold my physiological view of birth. People who will question why I would want to be a doula.  I dislike conflict and so will advocate for you from a point of knowledge and knowing.  By the time we enter the birth space –  I will understand what you want from your birth, what is important to you and it’s then easy for me to advocate for that as necessary. Ideally everyone in your birth space is there to support you to birth in the best way possible for you.

11. Do you have children? I do! 3 – but luckily they are all self caring adults.

BIRTH DOULAS

12. Can you Deliver my baby? I am no longer registered as a midwife and therefore I can not attend your birth in a midwife capacity.  What that means for you is that I do not carry drugs or equipment to monitor your baby. I can not perform any clinical tasks.  I come merely in a support role. I can not ‘deliver’ your baby.  I don’t need to as you will be the one birthing your baby.  I am unable to give clinical advice but instead will offer suggestions, information, research and signposting to enable you to make your own decisions about your care.  

13. How long will you be on call for?  What does that entail?  How will I contact you?  How much notice do I need to give you?   I will go on-call for your birth at 38 weeks.  I will check in with you as necessary and update you of my whereabouts if I am going to be away from home for any length of time.  Ideally you will telephone me when you are in labour and are needing support. I generally need an hour’s notice overnight and a couple of hours during the daytime.  

14. What will my partner’s role be? How will you work together?  Your birth partner’s role is absolutely key to a successful birthing experience.  I will work to support both of you in any way that you need.  I am not around to replace them (unless that is what we have discussed previously) I am there to support them to support you.  

15. How does it work? How often will we meet antenatally? Can you attend my appointments with me?  How many postnatal visits?  I offer 3 distinct packages of care, the details of which can be found HERE.  Following an initial meeting, where we will get to know one another and sign the paperwork.   I will either provide you with a Full 4 week Hypnobirthing course (or a 2-3 hour antenatal session) plus a birth planning session at around 37 weeks pregnant.  Postnatally I will book in one or two visits.  (Extra Postnatal visiting attracts a further fee of £25 per hour). Due to covid restrictions I am currently unable to attend appointment with you at the hospital of midwives clinic.

16. How far away do you live? Are you on-call for more than one client at a time? I  am based in Medway, Kent and aim to book clients with a maximum of an hour’s travel time…. I try to only be on call for one client at a time, occasionally there may be a day or two overlap.  (I recently had a client go to 44 weeks – nature sometimes has other ideas.)

17. What maternity units do you cover?   I cover Medway Maternity; Maidstone BC and Pembury Hospital.  East Kent – QEQM, Margate; William Harvey, Ashford; Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford.  I am also happy to attend clients in Bexley and Sidcup.

18. How will you support me in labour? I will support you emotionally, and offer practical support and suggestions.  I will mostly just be there with positive birthing energy as your labour unfolds.  

19. What happens if you miss the birth?  Is the birth part of the fee refundable? This really depends on why!  If it is a failure on my part and I was unable to find a emergency back up, then yes the birth part of the fee will be refunded (or paid to the covering doula).  I would still do the follow up visits.

20. What would happen if I fail to call or change my mind about having a doula present?  In this circumstance, the full fee remains payable.  This is time that could have been booked by other clients but has been reserved by yourselves. 

Bespoke Hypnobirthing & Doula Services

How to have a homebirth in hospital

This is a post that I never thought that I would need to write, but it isn’t a new concept!  To give you some context – I was born at home.  My mother is a great advocate for homebirth, but I was a first time parent – I thought I knew better! Does that sound familiar?

Why did I want a ‘homebirth in hospital’?

My mum was so disappointed that I’d chosen to give birth in hospital, but I was under the misconception that it was safer.  So having decided on a hospital birth, I assumed that I would have a natural birth in the hospital.  After all, I was just going in to have my baby! 

Why should you aim for a ‘home birth’ if you choose to go to hospital?

Physiologically mammals give birth fairly easily, quietly and with little fuss.  Optimal conditions for human mammals to give birth are most likely to be found at home, where you feel safe, secure and with the support of those who know and care for you.  The environment at home is conducive to normal straightforward birth that progresses without interference.

A managed birth is just that, it is ‘managed’ by the Doctors and Midwives that look after you.   Protocols will put you on a timeframe, monitoring will impede your movement.  Drips will speed up your labour, instruments or surgery may be needed to deliver your baby.  

It is really important that you understand the difference and do not confuse the two.

I want a normal birth, what can I do?

Its 2022, we had a pandemic, the maternity services are now running with a staffing crisis, home births are often unavailable (and cancelled completely in many areas). The midwifery led units are also often also closed due to lack of staff available to run them.

So actually, now more women than ever are going into hospital to have their babies, even when they had planned to birth at home.  Women who plan to have home births are being asked to transfer in for Midwifery care. Some of these women will choose to stay at home and birth without a midwife. More on that in a future post!

5 things that you can do to optimise your chances giving birth naturally yourself without medical support.

  1. Doing your birth preparation and practising your hypnobirthing techniques will make all the difference to how you feel in labour.  When you and your birth partners are calm and fully understand what is happening and how to deal with it makes for a peaceful experience.  There is no need for panic!
  2. Setting up your home environment is really important as you will be spending a larger proportion of your labour at home.  Setting it up for your comfort and to promote optimal hormonal response will help keep you in the labour zone.
  3. Choosing when to go to the hospital is probably the most important consideration.  Spending as much time as you can at home before leaving for the hospital gives you the best chance of birthing your baby vaginally.
  4. Transferring elements of your environment with you can make all the difference.  Battery tealights, smells from home.  It all makes for a relaxing hospital environment.  If you are relaxed, your care team will be relaxed.  Relaxed bodies birth easier!
  5. Having a robust birth plan, detailing your wishes, your quirks and your ‘need to know’ will advocate for the birth that you hope for.  
CanuGess

So what happened to me?

How did my ‘home birth in hospital’ go? 

I was one of the lucky ones. My first birth did not cascade to a whole lot of intervention despite an unnecessary rupture of membranes (ARM), I did actually go on to have a vaginal birth albeit with a nasty second degree tear.  I was supported (poorly) to breastfeed and stayed in hospital for 4 nights to recover.  I was one of the lucky ones, knowing what I know now.  I can see how easily this birth could have ended up in a theatre delivery. 

There is good research that birthing at home with the care of midwives is the safest option for all uncomplicated pregnancies. In fact very few women actually need the care of an obstetric team during birth. It is really important to understand that location matters and the very fact of being in hospital makes it more difficult for your body to do its thing.

A Maternity Wardrobe for all Seasons

What to look for as you choose your maternity clothing.

Have you come across the concept of a Capsule Wardrobe?  It’s a fairly new thing for me too but lends itself to maternity wear really well.  

it’s a simple and minimal approach to clothing yourself for a season.  I have been dressing this way for two or three years now and I love how I can just reach into my wardrobe and know that what comes out matches the other pieces in there and that they will work together. 

So, whether you are 8 weeks and feeling bloated or halfway though and finding your waistbands are no longer fitting, I have some top tips for you to help you pull together a wardrobe of clothing for this season of your life.

So a capsule wardrobe for some will be a bit like a uniform, but is not necessary to have everything the same, if that would bore you.  

The secret is to choose a colour palette

You can do this on Pinterest or just cut and paste items you like the look of into a word document.   Researching different styles and colours is part of the fun. The steps are

  1. Creating a mood board with colours and styles you love
  2. Choosing a simple colour palette that suits you and works together through the seasons. (It may be a different season next pregnancy)
  3. Choose staple items that will last as fashion changes. 
  4. Choose items with different weight fabrics that can be worn independently or together.
  5. Make sure that the items you choose can all be worn together, and interchangeably.

Everyone is different and will move in different social circles, the following guide will give you the basic capsule wardrobe that you can add too as necessary to suit your circumstances.

Capsule Wardrobe colour swatch

Staple Items

  • 3 Tee Shirts (1 x Black, 1 x White, 1 x Colour)
  • 3 Vest tops (pick neutral colours)
  • 1 Maternity Jeans
  • 2 Skirt/Shorts
  • 2 Black/Navy Leggings
  • 1 Nice Maternity Trousers
  • 1/2 Nice Maternity Top(s)
  • Long Cardigan
  • 1/2 Dress(s)
  • A Mac that fits for when it rains!

Choosing Jersey fabrics or something with some stretch in it is ideal.  Leggings are an excellent staple that can be worn on their own or under skirts and dresses.  A top tip I picked up is to go up a size and wear them back to front as they have more room at the back!

Shoes

  • 1 Sandals/boots
  • Flat trainers
  • Slip on comfortable going out shoes

Sometimes your feet will spread or go up a size in pregnancy, be aware of this as you choose new shoes/sandals as the seasons change.  

Accessories

Choose simple accessories that go with your colour palette.  Avoid belts as they can feel really uncomfortable.

Combining the pieces into outfits

  • White T, Navy Leggins, Long cardigan, flat shoes
  • Dress, Necklace, cardigan,sandals
  • Jeans, Coloured t, Sandals
  • Dress, vest and leggings if cooler. flat Trainers
  • Vest top,skirt, sandals

So as you can see there are many ways of combining just a few pieces into the perfect wardrobe for pregnancy.

Thank you to Lisa from Farmhouse on Boone Blog, for her suggestion of having a uniform based capsule.

When should I start Hypnobirthing Classes?

Calendar page with pencil

When should I start hypnobirthing classes?

Ideally, the best time is from around 20 weeks pregnant onwards, the end of the second trimester, or the beginning of the third trimester works really well.  Many clients find that booking their course for around the 28 week mark works really well.  It gives them time to slip into the regular practice without it being a rush.  

I have taught couples at 38 weeks pregnant who went on to have their baby the week after the course completed, proving that it is not too late even at the end of pregnancy.  You can start as soon as you are ready!  

Hypnobirthing affords you time to spend with your partner and your baby getting ready for the birth.  An in-person Hypnobirthing course is an interactive way of learning about birth.  Both you and your birth partner will practise the tools and techniques together.  Your questions will be answered and you will get on-going support.  It is time well spent!

Investing in your baby’s birth is worth it!

Have a look at what’s on offer:

How do I prepare for a natural birth?

Mother and baby

When we first fall pregnant we don’t really give much thought to the birth process; or to natural birth!

But as each new trimester begins our thoughts turn to birth.  We may assume that we will just go into hospital and come out with a baby, but there is so much more to it than that.

Birth for some women is described as pain-free or even orgasmic, but that certainly isn’t the case for many.  Hypnobirthing techniques do, however, help your birth become as comfortable as it can be.

There are things you can do to prepare….

Setting up your environment is probably the most important thing you can do.  Setting up the space that you will spend a significant part of your labour in, will help you remain calm and keep your birthing hormones at optimal levels.  Understanding your body’s natural ability to birth will help you organise your home for birth and beyond.  Being ready is helpful!

Feeling confident in your ability to birth, understanding what is happening and why it’s happening, can make all the difference as you feel the sensations of birth.  Knowing how the body expels the baby, helps you understand the sensations that you are feeling and when you know what your body is doing, you can anticipate your need for comfort measures.  

Understanding how mindset impacts your ability to birth – how all those stories you have been told are held in your memory.  These are sometimes remembered as something to be feared.  Learning fear release prior to birth can really help you to a natural positive birth.

Want to find out more, then click the link below.

Welcome to World Doula Week 2022.

How doula’s help families and what a doula actually is!

I’m Gill Marchant, A Doula serving Medway, Kent in the UK.

So, what is a doula anyway? In Greek the word means “servant”. 

There are all different types of doulas – infertility/women’s health doulas, birth doulas, and postpartum doulas.  There are also death doula’s who will support you with end of life care.

I am a birth doula and I help a mothers during her pregnancy and at her birth.  I answer my phone at 2am!  I will hold your hand as and when you need me to.  I will be your ‘Birth Nerd Friend’.  I will help you work through anxiety and fear with hypnobirthing techniques and will be a continuous support for you and your family as you birth your baby.  I can help with breathing and breakfast.  The role is vast!  

That said, there are also things that I don’t do!  Namely deliver your baby and give clinical care….  There are rules about what lay people can and can’t do at a birth.  So although I will not be delivering your baby, I will however watch and support you as you birth your baby, however and wherever is right for you.  

So, now that you know a little bit about me and the care I offer – it’s important to know that there are lots of doulas in Kent that are able to support you.  It’s really important that you find one that you ‘click’ with.  One that aligns with your views.  

So, in conclusion – doulas are here to help families – most do cost something – but it is worth the cost of a doula.  Doulas help mothers have less need of  epidurals, fewer C-sections, less everything – the doula will give a mother a better outcome for her birth and a more contented baby.

Follow me on instagram @medwayhypnobirth for information about my current offers or to just find out a little more about medway hypnobirth and the services that I offer.  Or you may contact me at medwayhypnobirth@gmail.com.

Wistful Waiting

A few months ago, I described to a client how that period of time when you are ready to birth, but your baby isn’t quite ready as ‘Wistfully Waiting’  or Wistful Waiting.  Since coming up with the term back in October, I’ve had a bit more time to think about it.

Wistful waiting

So What is ‘Wistful Waiting’?  It’s that time when you are really waiting for your baby to arrive and your baby is waiting for you.  It’s those last few weeks of pregnancy that seem to go on forever, when you are heavy, and fed up, everything is such an effort and you just want your baby to come!

Wistfully waiting is my way of saying, spend time with yourself and time with your baby. Build up your happiness hormones, feel as safe and as grounded as you can. Enjoy time laughing with your partner and family, before this new person comes earthside to join you.   Before your world as it is now is rocked to its core, by round the clock needs, and recovery time.

Babies really do come when they are ready if you are patient.  Some will come before 37 week, but statistically most will arrive after their guess date.  Some are really comfy in there and will wait till well after we expect them to put in an appearance.

Babies are built for survival and they know when their best time is.  So ‘Wistful Waiting’ is the time when your baby is making its final preparations for birth.  Relaxation is the key thing to do here.  Rest, Relaxation and most importantly giving it time.

What is a Doula?

Doula support

So you might have googled ‘Doula Near Me’  or find my Doula.  A myriad of searches may have brought you here.  But what is a doula?  And Why do you need one!

The First time I heard the word Doula …

I can remember the first time I heard the word ‘Doula’ it was said in the same sentence that mentioned ‘Independent Midwives’.  I was well in my 30’s and had already had 3 children.  I was amazed that I could have had private independent care!  

I had visions of Middle Aged hippy women wearing flowing skirts, cardigans and beaded necklaces!  I couldn’t have been further from the truth!  Most of the doulas I have come into contact with since I started this journey have been younger women with a passion for birth that they just want to spread to other birthing people.  When you get the Birthing bug – you are caught!  You have no option but to share the love of physiological birth with whoever you meet.

So I have learned, over the last few weeks that I have been doing my Developing Doula training, that Doula’s are not just for hippies who want to chant their babies out with splashing water and scent sticks!

They are for all birthing people! THEY ARE FOR YOU!

So whether you are planning an Elective Caesarean, whether you are planning to have your baby on the Delivery Suite with Obstetric care nearby.  Or whether you are having a straightforward pregnancy and are after the safety of a Homebirth, or a Waterbirth at the Birthing Centre. I can support you whether you choose to birth at Medway Hospital’s The Birth Place.  Or at Maidstone’s Birth Centre.  I can support you at QEQM, Margate, or at the William Harvey Hospital at Ashford.  Pembury Hospital is also within my catchment area which covers all of Kent and into the London borough of Bexley.

It does not matter whether you plan a home, hospital, birthing centre or to give birth in your garden, As your Doula, I can help you navigate the system!

Doula’s come in all shapes and sizes, and there will be a doula that you instantly click with when you meet them.  We are a well trained, informed bunch of practitioners who can support all kinds of births in all sorts of settings. As a former Midwife, my expertise is translating the medical jargon and making the most complicated medical conditions seem manageable where possible.

You are the pregnant person, your vision for your birth is unique to you and as your Doula, I will support your vision wherever and however you choose to birth.

7 things to think about when being induced

There has been a lot written about induction of labour recently.  The new highly controversial NICE guidelines are due to be published in the coming weeks.  The guidelines are due to recommend routine induction at 39 weeks for all women, with a higher BMI, women who have had IVF or AFT’s, Women of Black, Brown, Asian, or other Ethnic family backgrounds.  It is also proposed that all women should be induced by 41 weeks gestation.  

You can read Dr Sara Wickham’s response here [www.drsarawickham.com/?s=10+reasons+induction+nice].  I am not a researcher and tend to go with my gut feelings about what is right and what is not.  These new guidelines do not feel right to me!  Sara Wickham’s response echoes the thoughts of the birth workers that I have been reading over the last few weeks and I would encourage you to have a look at some of the responses to the draft guidelines that have been written in the last few weeks.

So induction of labour.   It is not disputed that for some women whose pregnancies have run into difficulties Induction of Labour is a really good thing.  So what can we do to make the process more bearable?

Thinking about, and making a birth plan is a really good idea.

  • Think about who you will have supporting you during this time.  Do you want your partner with you, or your mum, or a trusted friend or Doula?  What are the arrangements on the ward for visitors and birth partners?  Do you want your partner to stay overnight or be at home resting?  
  • What will your plans be for keeping comfortable?  Will you want to mobilize or bounce on a birthing ball,  snuggle up in your pillow from home?  Have another thing about pain relief. In the earlier stages things like gas and air and epidurals are not available, but, Pethidine and other oral forms of pain relief, may be?  Will you want to have a shower, or bath?  Water can be a great help.  Think about bringing in a couple of your things from home.  Battery twinkle lights, aromatherapy sprays for your pillow.  Your partner’s t-shirt can be a comfort if you are on your own.  Little things like these can make a big difference to how you feel about the space you are in.
  • We know that listening to your birth affirmations and visualisations make a really big difference to how you cope with induction of labour.  Being peaceful and calm gives you the best chance of the drugs taking effect.
  • What about monitoring your baby’s heartbeat? Once labour gets going continuous monitoring will be recommended, however, this is your choice, would you prefer intermittent monitoring, or telemetry where there are no wires and you may be able to use the pool?
  • We know that mobilizing in labour is important, what strategies are you going to use for staying off of the bed?  Using upright, forward and open positions that are good for helping the baby rotate in the pelvis.  Upright positions for birth are also great to use, leaning over the back of the bed, or hands and knees.  Standing by the bed. Avoiding sitting on your tail bones allows the pelvis to open and the baby to descend.
  • After your baby is born, you will be able to spend time skin to skin.
  • Talking through your options with your antenatal team will help you understand how induction of labour works and how it progresses to the birth of your baby.  

Undergoing and induction of labour is a big decision to make and should not be taken lightly, but with a deep understanding of the risks (and benefits) that come with bringing a baby into the world before both you and your baby are ready.

Tegan’s Birth Story

Birth Story

This is the Story of Lilly’s Birth.  I have permission to post and names have not been changed at the clients request.

“All throughout my scans I was told that my baby was on the smaller side.  At my 36 week scan I was told that I had a small baby and that I would be induced at 38 weeks because she had fallen behind on the chart.  Gill had spoken to me about induction of labour in the hypnobirthing session and had told me how it worked.

I messaged Gill about what they wanted to do.  I was a little worried and she spoke it through with me again and she reassured me.

I went into the hospital on Thursday and they put 5 rods up me and ended up breaking my waters. It was really painful and I forgot to breathe and Levi had to remind me to do the hypnobirthing breathing – it really helped calm me down and focus on one thing! I was left to go into labour and spent the night trying to sleep, but was uncomfortable.  I listened to my tracks but was really worried about my waters having gone and being left.  The breathing really helped.

I spent most of Friday breathing and swaying and things started to feel like they were happening at about 2 on the Saturday morning.  Levi came back to the hospital and I was moved to the delivery suite.  I was doing really well swaying and leaning over the bed, but my phone kept going and my surges slowed down. Gill had explained that an epidural could be a good thing if I need to have the drip and so I ended up having an epidural in the afternoon.  My baby was born after about half an hour of pushing at half past 8 in the evening.

We had to stay in hospital for a few days as my baby had caught an infection, but we are home now all is good and she is breastfeeding well.    I was so glad that I had done the hypnobirthing classes as I knew what to expect and did not feel anxious.”

Author Note:

Tegan came to me when she was about 32 weeks pregnant, she was anxious and worried about her birth. It was such a pleasure to watch her grow and make decisions that were right for her. She has blossomed as a new mother and it has been a real pleasure getting to know her and baby Lily.

If you are wanting to find out more about how hypnobirthing can support you and your partner to a peaceful birth click here.