Birth Health Life


Birth&Postnatal Doula

Birth I work

As women, we are perfectly equipped to birth our babies and to be positively transformed by the experience, however the prevailing culture around women's matters and birth in particular can sometimes hinder this powerful natural process. As a calm, experienced, nurturing and knowledgeable labour companion supporting mum and partner, my aim is to provide the preparation you want, and the protected space for the birth you are envisioning.

 I believe there is a doula out there for everyone, and that feeling connected and supported and prepared is worth its weight in gold.  I know how special this time is for you, and my mission is to support and honour your individual journey with the focus on your wishes for your baby's birth, and your empowerment through this rite of passage.

Continuous professional development

  • trained with postnatal doula Naomi Kemeny in the care of twins, 2011 

  • attended a water birth study day at East Surrey Hospital.2012 

  • Trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter with Sussex Community NHS Trust and been supporting in clinics on a weekly basis ever since. 2013

  • attended doula Michelle Every's course on supporting parents through the loss of their baby 2014

  • study days more than once with Michel Odent 2011,2012,2017

  • study day with the late Sheila Kitzinger 2012

  • Midwifery Conference at Kingston University 2013 

  • home birth conference with iconic Ina May Gaskin. March 2016 

  • learned the Closing the Bones ritual massage for after the birth, with doulas Sophie Messager and Maddie McMahon. November 2015 

  • Breastfeeding study day with Maureen Minchin June 2016

  • NLP for birth workers with midwife and author Mark Harris of Birthing for Blokes

  • I volunteer every week in community drop-in breastfeeding clinics, and in the Princess Royal Hospital Breastfeeding drop-in clinic and Bolney ward, which is the post natal ward. I also work bank shifts on central delivery suite and Bolney ward as a Maternity Care Assistant.

Having trained as a nurse, I am very at home in a clinical setting as well as, well, at home! Where ever birth takes place, and what ever a mum's choice, supporting mums and families through pregnancy, birth and the early days is my life's passion.

I offer two comprehensive and in-depth individualised birth and breastfeeding preparation sessions (including de-briefing of previous births if needed)in your own home or mine. ..more if you need, at no extra cost. As well as meeting for these sessions, we can meet up for coffee or chat over the phone as often as you'd like.  I'm on call for you from 38 weeks, during which time you can contact me whenever you need.  I will come to you when you need, and stay with you until you are cuddling your newborn and enjoying a first feed. I'll pop back in a day or two (or sooner if you wish) so we can talk about the birth if you want to, and to ensure that feeding is going well. I can cook a meal, do some hoovering or shopping or cuddle your new bundle whilst you bathe or nap. I will bring cake, and wash up before I go.

I accept only a very few birth clients per year.  For me, being the doula at a birth is not like any other job.  During the lead up to births I can never fully relax, being glued to my phone and aware that my client could call at any time, with a worry, a question, or to say that labour has begun.  I commit to being on 24 hour call, and as normal labour can occur any time between 37 and 42 weeks, the call period can potentially be as long as five weeks at a time. Because of this I don't accept births with due dates that are close to one another, so that I can fully concentrate on you.  I may be away from my family for over two days if labour is long and I am needed for support.  I commit to being no more that one hour's travel away from your place of birth during the on-call period, so this can severely limit my life choices and attendance at social and family occasions.  I commit to making the journey with you, where ever it takes us and for this I charge £900 plus mileage and parking expenses/cab fare.

Shared Care

I sometimes work with a partner, doing what we doulas know as 'shared care'  I prefer to work this way for a number of reasons, not least of all the knowledge that you will always be supported no matter what. What this means for you is that you get two doulas for the price of one.  We do your antenatal and postnatal meetings together.  You can request to have both of us at your birth, one of us taking photographs if you wish.  Being doulas, we are extremely sensitive to whether it is appropriate or helpful to have two people there, and one of us fades off to the coffee shop if the room is getting too crowded. If your labour is long...nothing wrong with that...we take it in turns to cover for one another so you always have a fresh and rested doula at your service. What this means for me, is that I can relax during the on-call period and the labour, knowing that there is always someone to back me up if anything unforeseen should crop up...I know that you will always be well supported. Of course you will need to click with both of us and be happy with the dynamic...your feelings about this are paramount.

How will you know that I'm the doula for you?

On the subject of that 'click', the next step, as you've read this far, is to give me a call on 07515287968 and arrange a free no-obligation 45 minute meeting which can be anywhere you like (you're more than welcome at mine) so we can have a coffee and see if we fit.  You will have questions you'll want to ask of course, and so will I.  By the end you'll know if I'm the doula for you, and I will know if I'm going to be happy to go ahead and be booked by you for your birth! I'll be even happier to accept if I know that you have interviewed at least one, preferably two other doulas before deciding.  On that note, I don't expect you to book me at the initial interview meeting. Go away, have a think and a chat to loved ones, then give me the call.

Post Natal Doula...what do I do?

My special interest is in postnatal care and breastfeeding experience and knowledge. I offer the traditional ritual massage of Closing the Bones, as well as errands, shopping, cooking. Babymoon support. Baby cuddling to give you a rest, company and knowledgeable understanding of normal breastfeeding. A few hours a day, a few days a week for a few weeks. Book me beforehand, or ask ad-hoc for less structured help. I charge £20 per hour and 50p a mile outside my local area of Hassocks.

When to book/set up an initial interview 

Get in touch as soon as you get the urge to get some support in place. I will encourage you to interview other doulas and to have a think after our interview before booking me. Half my fee is payable on booking, which secures the antenatal sessions which we'll do at around 35 and 37 weeks.  We can have a little refresher if the weeks still keep ticking by. The remaining half of my fee becomes payable at 38 weeks and this secures my status as on call for you. If you're already well past that time and are in a last minute panic...fear not, I am very accommodating and can hit the ground running so just pick up the phone and get some support in place. 07515287968

Here's some general information and some scientific evidence about the effects of doula support

'Labour support is centuries old, but its advantages have now been validated in six controlled studies and its positive benefits should not be overlooked.John Kennell, Marshall Klaus, Et Al Journal of the American Medical Association 1991

A doula is a woman caregiver. I love the term coined by Dana Raphael, a medical anthropologist, in her 1973 book, 'The Tender Gift - Breastfeeding', and used by Doctors Klaus and Kennel, in their book. 'Mothering the Mother', The kind of support you would want from your own mother; protective, non-judgemental, calm, experienced, warm and knowledgeable. These pioneers can be seen on this video produced by DONA International, the doula training organisation they founded. DONA video
 'Doula' has come to mean a woman who gives emotional and practical support to a labouring woman, and who remains with her through birth, and if required, enables her to have the most stress-free environment in which to bond with her baby for up to six weeks after birth. Here is a short preview of an English film about doulas, featuring two local doulas who happen to be my wonderful mentors! 
A doula is not a nurse, or a midwife, although, like me, many have been trained as such.  The doula's training means that she will be familiar with the process of labour and birth, and with the complications and medical interventions that can accompany it.  She is not there to make any medical diagnosis or decisions.
The doula protects and maintains a safe emotional and physical space for the mother and her partner.  Her reassuring presence enables mum to let go and surrender herself to the birthing process, safe in the knowledge that she and her partner are protected by a nurturing female companion.  By supporting the birthing woman in surrendering herself to her natural hormonal processes in this way, the presence of a doula can make a profound difference to the birth.
The care a doula gives is totally individual; mum and partner if she has one, will meet up with the doula in the weeks before birth to get to know one another.  This is a safe space for mum-to-be to share her feelings about the birth, and maybe about previous births - what she wants to do, doesn't want to do, and what she may be fearing.  When labour starts the doula can be called as soon as the mum-to-be wants her, and the doula will stay with her for as long as needed.
In the postnatal period, the doula's most useful role is to free the new mother from her daily household tasks so that she may spend precious bonding time with her new baby.  This may involve doing everyday jobs such as housework, shopping, cooking, dog-walking, maybe looking after the older children.   The doula may mind the baby so that mum can get some much-needed sleep or enjoy a relaxing bath.  The doula's training and experience makes her a good listener and she is available if the new mum needs to talk about how the birth was for her, or needs support  with breastfeeding.
"All over the world there exists in every society a small group of women who feel themselves strongly attracted to giving care to other women during pregnancy and childbirth. Failure to make use of this group of highly motivated people is regrettable and a sin against the principle of subsidiary." ~ Dr. Kloosterman, Chief of OB/GYN, Univ. of Amsterdam, Holland
Doulaing is not new; women have had female companionship during labour throughout recorded history. The benefits for the mother and baby of having a doula at the birth cannot be over-estimated.
'I've run a number of marathons. I've done a lot of hiking with a heavy backpack, and I've worked for forty hours straight on-call; but going through labour with my wife was more strenuous and exhausting than any of these experiences.  We could never have done it without the doula.  She was crucial for us.' ~A father.
 Below is some of the latest research about doulas
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Feb 16;2:CD003766.Continuous support for women during childbirth.Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, Weston J.

Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, Suite 130, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 1P8.

BACKGROUND: Historically, women have been attended and supported by other women during labour. However in hospitals worldwide, continuous support during labour has become the exception rather than the routine.

OBJECTIVES: Primary: to assess the effects of continuous, one-to-one intrapartum support compared with usual care. Secondary: to determine whether the effects of continuous support are influenced by: (1) routine practices and policies; (2) the provider's relationship to the hospital and to the woman; and (3) timing of onset.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (31 December 2010).

SELECTION CRITERIA: All published and unpublished randomized controlled trials comparing continuous support during labour with usual care.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used standard methods of the Cochrane Collaboration Pregnancy and Childbirth Group. Two authors independently evaluated methodological quality and extracted the data. We sought additional information from the trial authors. We used random-effects analyses for comparisons in which high heterogeneity was present, and we reported results using the risk ratio for categorical data and mean difference for continuous data.

MAIN RESULTS: Twenty-one trials involving 15061 women met inclusion criteria and provided usable outcome data. Results are of random-effects analyses, unless otherwise notedWomen allocated to continuous support were more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth (RR 1.08, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.12) and less likely to have intrapartum analgesia (RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.84 to 0.97) or to report dissatisfaction (RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.79). In addition their labours were shorter (mean difference -0.58 hours, 95% CI -0.86 to -0.30), they were less likely to have a caesarean (RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.92) or [COLOR="#ff8c00"]instrumental vaginal birth[/color] (fixed-effect, RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.84 to 0.96), [COLOR="#ff8c00"]regional analgesia[/color] (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.88 to 0.99), or a baby with a low 5-minute Apgar score (fixed-effect, RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.96). There was no apparent impact on other intrapartum interventions, maternal or neonatal complications, or on breastfeedingSubgroup analyses suggested that continuous support was most effective when provided by a woman who was neither part of the hospital staffnor the woman's social network, and in settings in which epidural analgesia was not routinely available. No conclusions could be drawn about the timing of onset of continuous support.l women should have support throughout labour and birth.
  The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because it is you.~ Unknown

The physiology of birth

Excerpts from Michel Odent's book "The Caesarean" - Free Association Books, 2004
Let's visualize a labouring woman from the perspective of a modern physiologist.
This leads us to focus on the most active part of her body, that is the glands secreting all the hormones involved in childbirth. These hormonal agents originate in old, primitive brain structures called the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. In other words, if we visualise a labouring woman as a modern physiologist would, we visualise the deep, primitive part of her brain that is working hard and releasing a flow of hormones.

Today we are also in a position to understand that when there are inhibitions - during the birth process or during any sort of sexual experience - such inhibitions originate in the "new brain", the part of the brain which is highly developed among humans and which can be seen as the brain of the intellect, or the thinking brain. It is more appropriate to call it the new cortex or, rather, the neocortex.

The key for rediscovering the universal needs of women in labour is to interpret a phenomenon which is well known to certain mothers and midwives who have experience of undisturbed birth. It is the fact that when a woman is giving birth by herself, without any medication, there is a time when she has an obvious tendency to cut herself off from our world, as if "going to another planet". She dares to do what she would never dare to do in her daily social life, for example scream or swear. She can find herself in the most unexpected postures, making the most unexpected noises. This means that she is reducing the control by the neocortex. This reduction of neocortical activity is the most important aspect of birth physiology from a practical point of view. It leads us to understand that a labouring woman needs first to be protected from any sort of stimulation of her neocortex. This can be translated in terms of "Dos and don'ts":


From a practical point of view it is useful to explain what this means and to review the well-known factors that can stimulate the human neocortex:

- language, particularly rational language is one such factor. When we communicate with language we process what we perceive with our neocortex. This implies, for example, that one of the main qualities of a birth attendant is her capacity to keep a low profile and to remain silent, to avoid in particular asking precise questions. Imagine a woman in hard labour, and already "on another planet". She dares to scream out; she dares to do things she would never do otherwise; she has forgotten about what she has been taught or read in books; she has lost her sense of time and then she finds herself in the unexpected position of having to respond to someone who wants to know at what time she had her last pee! Although it is apparently simple, it will probably take a long time to rediscover that a birth attendant must remain as silent as possible.

- Bright light is another factor that stimulates the human neocortex. Electroencephalographers know that the trace exploring brain activity can be influenced by visual stimulation. We usually close the curtains and switch off the lights when we want to reduce the activity of our intellect in order to go to sleep. This implies that, from a physiological perspective, a dim light should in general facilitate the birth process. It will also take a long time to convince many health professionals that this is a serious issue. It is noticeable that as soon as a labouring woman is on 'another planet' she is spontaneously driven towards postures that tend to protect her against all sorts of visual stimulation. For example she may be on all fours, as if praying. Apart from reducing the back pain, this common posture has many positive effects, such as eliminating the main reason for fetal distress (no compression of the big vessels that run along the spine) and facilitating the rotation of the baby's body.

- A feeling of being observed is another type of neocortical stimulation. The physiological response to the presence of an observer has been scientifically studied. In fact, it is common knowledge that we all feel different when we know we are being observed. In other words, privacy is a factor that facilitates the reduction of neocortical control. It is ironic that all non-human mammals, whose neocortex is not as developed as ours, have a strategy for giving birth in privacy - those who are normally active during night, like rats, tend to give birth during the day, and conversely others like horses who are active during the day tend to give birth at night. Wild goats give birth in the most inaccessible mountain areas. Our close relatives the chimpanzees also move away from the group. The importance of privacy implies, for example, that there is a difference between the attitude of a midwife staying in front of a woman in labour and watching her, and another one just sitting in a corner. It implies also that we should be reluctant to introduce any device that can be perceived as a way to observe, may it be a video camera or an electronic fetal monitor.

- Any situation likely to trigger a release of hormones of the adrenaline family also tends to stimulate the neocortex and to inhibit the birth process as a result. When there is a possible danger, mammals need to be alert and attentive. This implies that a labouring woman first needs to feel secure. The need to feel secure explains why all over the world and down throughout the ages many women had a tendency to give birth close to their mother, or close to a substitute for their mother - an experienced mother or grandmother - in the framework of the extended family or in the framework of the community… a midwife. A midwife is originally a mother figure. The mother is the prototype of the person with whom one feels secure, without feeling observed and judged.

Michel Odent is the French surgeon who introduced water births. He has written many books and doulas are encouraged to read his work

"Will humanity survive obstetrics?" ~ Michel Odent 


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