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Diary of a Preggy Lady - 30 Weeks

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I’m 30-weeks pregnant now, and L-Day is looming. This isn’t the first time I’ve given birth and I was lucky enough to have a positive experience first time around – a quick labour at home with no complications.

Throughout my whole first pregnancy, I tried my hardest not to engage with labour scare stories. I knew that fear can turn a good labour bad, impeding the secretion of vital pregnancy hormones – more on that in a future post.

…And I’m trying to do the same thing this time around, which means avoiding the newspapers.

I’m finding the daily scare stories about NHS maternity wards pretty disconcerting.  On one-hand, I’m glad that journalists are out there highlighting the problems and calling for change, on the other my heart breaks for pregnant women already worried about giving birth, faced with daily updates on how badly they’ll be looked after during labour.

Doula to the rescue

I’ve been looking for ways to calm my niggling nerves. The solution? A doula.  It seems surprising that you don’t hear about them more – especially with maternity services stretched beyond their limits.

Doula was originally a Greek word meaning woman servant.  Nowadays, doulas are highly qualified, experienced women who provides non-medical support during labour.

It’s a win-win situation: midwives and obstetricians are left to concentrate on medical issues, and the labouring woman is given physical and moral support all through her labour, the kind of support that over-stretched midwives, with the very best will in the world, just can’t give at the moment. Another massive positive is doulas don’t change shifts, so you know that the woman who you feel safe with will stay with you until your baby arrives.

Our body’s painkillers

As I touched on before, hormones play a powerful role during labour.  If a woman is afraid, alone and unable to let her guard down, her body won’t produce the amazing cocktail of hormones, which not only produces contractions, but also relieves pain and encourages the mothering instinct. Flip this on its head and if a woman feels safe, secure and supported then the hormones, and so the contractions, flow. *

It’s not surprising then than according to research, a doula’s presence can decrease the chance of having a C-section by 50% and shorten first time labour by an average of two hours.

*If you want to find out more on how labour hormones support us during childbirth, have a read of Sarah J Buckley’s excellent book “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering,” especially the undisturbed birth section.

So what does a doula do?

She’s there to support you, wherever you choose to give birth.  She’ll spend time with you before the birth, finding out what kind of birth you’d like so she can advocate for you during the labour. Some doulas are qualified masseuse, some have over skills, which is why it’s worth doing your research before choosing.

She can provide non-medical pain relief: a TENS machine, hot towels on the back that kind of thing, don’t laugh – it was surprisingly effective during my first labour.  She’ll help pump up the pool – if you’re at home – make cups of tea, look after siblings and generally be a calm helping hand during what can be a stressful experience for you and your other-half.

How do I find a doula?

Have a look at Doula UK (http://doula.org.uk); you can do a postcode search there.  Contact the local doulas and arrange to have a chat with them face-to-face before you sign them up.  Questions to ask yourself: will I feel comfortable with this woman when I’m at my most vulnerable? Does she have the skills I’m looking for? This could be anything from massage to placenta encapsulation.

How much does it cost? 

Around £500/£600 which includes being on-call for two weeks either side of your due date and a set number of ante- and post-natal visits.  Some may baulk at this figure, but then it’s quite normal to spend that amount on a brand-new buggy.  To afford it, I’m buying a second-hand pushchair and using the money I saved (although I have splashed out on a new mattress, bassinet and car seat for safety reasons).

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