What's a doula, the birth companion Meghan Markle's reportedly hired to help her during labour?

Has the Duchess of Sussex hired a doula? [Photo: Getty]

Since announcing that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are due to become parents in the spring, royal fans have been staying updated on the pregnancy and the forthcoming birth.

From the sweet reason she’s been touching her bump so much, to what her tummy button popping reveals about her stage of pregnancy and how she’s keeping her hair grey-free. 

And now that the birth is drawing ever closer, attention has turned to where the Duchess might deliver her baby and who might be on hand to help her.

As well as rumours she plans to give birth at the Lindo Wing, where sister-in-law Duchess of Cambridge delivered all three of her children, Meghan is also apparently planning to enlist the help of a doula when she gives birth. 

According to US Weekly the former actress wants to focus on being “calm” and having “positive energy” when welcoming her first child.

For those of you who aren’t in the pregnancy know, a doula is a non-medical professional who helps a woman during and after her pregnancy.

They’re there to provide emotional support, but aren’t a replacement for trained medical staff.

The Duchess joins an estimated 5,000 women in the UK who employ a doula for pregnancy and birth support [Photo: Getty]

“Doulas are trained in providing emotional and physical support during childbirth,” Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Adviser, NCT, tells Yahoo UK. 

“There is evidence that support from an experienced non-health professional throughout labour results in better birth experiences and fewer interventions. Having access to a doula is also particularly important for those women who do not have a partner, friend or relative who can fill this role.”

According to the NCT a birth doula will:

  • meet the woman when she is pregnant and spend time getting to know her
  • provide one-to-one support during labour, working on her behalf if she needs something and reassuring her all the way.

While a postnatal doula will:

  • care for the mother after the birth
  • help the new parents look after the baby (rather than looking after the baby for them herself).

The trend for employing a doula to help you through pregnancy is on the rise if recent statistics are anything to go by.

Back in 2005 there were just 250 doulas recognised by Doula UK but now the organisation has almost 700 members and there are thought to be 1,000 birth helpers practicing across the country.

The Duchess certainly isn’t alone in employing the services of a doula as Doula UK estimates that more than 5,000 expectant mothers now chose to employ a doula to help them through birth each year.

What are the benefits of hiring a doula?

As doulas stay with pregnant women throughout their pregnancy and labour, that means they get to know them very well, which can be reassuring, particularly if your maternity service can’t provide the same continuity in care.

According to the NCT research has found that continuous support during labour and birth is beneficial for women and for their babies.

The Duchess of Sussex is rumoured to be hiring a doula to help support her through pregnancy and birth [Photo: Getty]

How do you go about finding a doula?

The NCT site advises you visit NCT Doulas. “Our doulas have all completed a nine-month course recognised by Doula UK and developed by NCT in partnership with the University of Worcester,” the site reads.

One word of warning, however, is that some doulas practice without training. So if you choose to find your doula via another route, it’s a good idea to ask about training when you interview your potential candidate.

And remember that Doulas are there to provide with emotional support, they aren’t a substitute for a trained medical professional.

“It’s best to get one-to-one midwifery care throughout labour and birth, as well as emotional support from a companion – either a partner, friend or doula,” advises Elizabeth Duff.

A doula is a person who supports women through labour and birth, and/or after she has her baby.

News of Meghan’s rumoured doula instruction comes as speculation grows that the Duchess will give birth at the Lindo Wing, like her sister-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge.

It was previously thought that the royal couple might opt for a hospital closer to their new Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, for the birth of their first baby, but according to sources staff at the private maternity ward at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, have been advised not to take holiday in April, sparking rumours that the Duchess could deliver her baby there.

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