© Arlene Dunkley-Wood 2019 

What is  a Doula?


Women often feel more relaxed calm and confident, when labouring with the support of an experienced doula. The trust that has been built throughout our contact, and continuity of care, helps the woman deal better with the ebbs and flows of the labour and enable her to let go. Research has shown that having a doula present at birth can lower a number of interventions and instrumental deliveries necessary.

2019 marks 26 year anniversary of my work as a doula and 33 years as a therapist. I have attended many births, at home and in various hospitals in and around London, especially East, North East & Greater London. (Hospitals I have attended are UCLH, St Thomas’s, Lewisham Hospital Birth Centre , King Georges’s in Essex,  Queens Hospital in Romford, Homerton, Whipps Cross, Princess Alexander, Whittington, North Middlesex and Newham General)

Some of these births are straightforward and others are challenging, but all are deeply rewarding. I am happy to attend any birth and will support the women’s wishes entirely.  In the past, I have attended a variety of births, from water birth to VBACS, twin births and uniquely have attended a double VBAC with  two women.

My goal as a doula is to help create the space so that the woman and her partner find their ‘birth dance’. The labour dynamics can be challenging, beautiful, gentle and the energy between the two of them is powerful, intense, personal and funny all at once.

This is often the first time the woman’s partner has seen her in pain, or more importantly, out of control. For the partner, this may be stressful and concerning. A woman’s partner often feels the pressure of needing to know everything that is happening, at any given time.

This can create a state of anxiety and can be stressful for both the partner and the labouring woman. By having a doula present, their anxiety is reduced, and the couple will then be able to let go a little so that she can find an inner stillness; and be with what is happening in the here and now. Let’s find a way to dance your baby out.

I am really passionate about supporting couples and feel very honoured to have been invited to support the couple at their birth.

It is standard practice for there to be a meeting well before the birth, giving us time to get to know each other to build the trust that is needed for such a special relationship.  I will only take on the maximum of 2 women in any month.  So that I can give you that time and peace of mind, that when you call me to be at your birth,  I will be there.  Once I am on call, my phone will be by my side and I will always be available to answer any queries, big or small.

As a  birth doula,  I am on call for the 2-3 weeks before your due date and 2-3 weeks thereafter.  Even if you are overdue. Yes, that’s right,  there is no cutoff point until the baby is born.  I will attend the birth and will be in constant communication via phone calls, text messaging and emails if needed in the lead up to labour.  We will spend some time before the birth discussing and preparing for the birth.  Once your home and settled, approximately 10 days (unless you want me to visit earlier) there will be a postnatal visit.  If plans change, we can renegotiate where needed.

I am a great advocate of breastfeeding and will offer breastfeeding support and advice were needed.   I have helped many women turn around their breastfeeding problems and even helped women re-lactate.  I will offer a one off breastfeeding session and can offer Skype/face-time breastfeeding advice and support.  

‘Research shows’ Instrumental deliveries (www.birthchoiceUK.com) shows have risen to 7.2 % forceps, 26.5% Caesarean sections from 2013-14 to 34.7% at last calculation. A enormous economic growth in 3 years UK wide.


*All images are taken by the author and uploaded with the permission of clients.  
They are not for public use with out authorisation.