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Filtering by Category: Doula


Siobhan Ridley

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You may know some collective nouns for various animals, such as: a flock of birds; a pod of hippos; a crash of rhinos (my personal fav!), but did you know that the collective noun for a group of doulas is a cuddle? Yup, it’s true.
Why a cuddle you might ask? There was a study conducted on the benefits of cuddling on human physiology and what it found was that this simple human contact lowers cortisol levels (stress hormones), increases oxytocin levels (love and nurture hormone), lowers heart rate and blood pressure and generally helps to restore an equilibrium to the body and mind. Studies on the efficacy of doulas have alluded to similar effects. I don’t know who actually coined the term ‘cuddle of doulas’ but it couldn’t be more apt. So you can imagine what it’s like when a bunch of us get together! It’s like diving into an ocean of oxytocin.

Did you know that we have our very own cuddle of doulas in Norfolk? Yup, in our own little county we have a bunch of amazing, passionate woman whose mission it is to support and nurture women and families of Norfolk. And when you tap into a Norfolk Doula, you are accessing the whole cuddle of wisdom.
As I sat in a cafe recently I overheard a woman telling her friend about ‘her’ doula. I left that cafe beaming from ear to ear in the knowledge that a woman had felt nurtured throughout her pregnancy and birth. That she had reached out and received the care that us doulas ache for all women and birthing people to have. The fact that I had not been her doula didn’t even enter my mind…I was just purely, unequivocally overjoyed for her!

I would like to cordially invite you to meet our cuddle of Norfolk Doulas.
The website is still a work in progress but I’m too excited not to share. We have a number of super scrumptious doulas ready to walk with you through any part of your journey from bump through to parenthood and beyond. We are a brilliant collective of doulas, supporting each other, supporting you, passionately spreading oxytocin throughout the county. Because oxytocin is the shiz and non-judgemental support, care and love are ALWAYS necessary for EVERYONE!

So do head over to NORFOLK DOULAS and get in touch if you’d like to find out more or just have a chat!

Click HERE to find out what a doula is and all about my Birth and Pregnancy doula services.

DOULAS AREN'T JUST FOR DUCHESSES: Why you should have a doula for your first birth, just like Meghan

Siobhan Ridley

Doulas have been around since time memorial. They provide the ancient art of emotional, nurturing female support during the most vulnerable moments of a woman's life - the day she gives birth. The doula community doesn't shout about what we do. We work with families in strictest confidence, holding their secrets, the details of their journey and their personal stories, under lock and key in our mental filing cabinets. Behind the scenes we work tirelessly in whatever ways we can to change birth culture, to support vulnerable women, to spread good quality information, to counter the dearth of click bait rubbish and to spread as much emotional and practical care as possible. We're so busy doing all those things, that sometimes our voice is lost in the swamped advertising world where pregnant women and parents are cash cows to an ever growing industry of 'must have things'.

And this is why, when high profile women such as Meghan Markle reportedly choose to have a doula in her birth squad, we get very excited. We also get very excited because we know that she is going to have SO much love during her pregnancy and birth and that is what doulas want for ALL women.

Why should you have a doula for your first birth?

A doula will guide you through all the information

From the minute you see that positive line on the pee stick, your head can start swirling with pregnancy, birth and parenting stuff. It can be overwhelming can't it? The internet is full of articles, must have lists, forums, social media and opinions. Friends and family (invited and uninvited) share personal stories, advice and opinions. There's so much to wade through and it's almost impossible to work out what is good quality information, what will help and what will hinder.
This is where a doula exercises her super powers: she knows where to find the best quality, un-biased information. She has her finger on the pulse and can access the most up to date research so you can make informed choices about your pregnancy and birth. She has a tried and tested network of local services and pregnancy and birth professionals to whom she can refer you. If she doesn't know the answer to one of your questions, she knows where to go to find out. Her breadth of knowledge and experience is vast because she is continually updating and augmenting her professional training. With expert finesse she weaves together the newest scientific studies with ancient wisdom.

With a doula by your side, you don't need to waste hours trawling the internet, wrangle with confusion or feel overwhelmed.

A doula is your confidant on speed dial

Listening and truly hearing, with compassion, understanding and without judgement, is a skill a doula possesses. She does not default to 'fix' things, but instead will guide you through finding your own way so that you are always in control. Pregnancy, birth and impending parenthood can cause all kinds of complex emotions to surface and a doula will provide you with a safe space to work through your deepest fears and anxieties and your greatest hopes and wishes.

A doula supports you and your partner

In Meghan's case, her birth partner is also her husband and her baby's father. This is not always the case of course as your birth partner can be anyone you choose. Your doula will support you both and the unique relationship that you have, respecting your partner's role and significance to you. Often, the partner is also a parent, in which case a doula will also be deeply mindful of the experience of pregnancy and birth that the partner wishes to have.

Birth is a rollercoaster of a journey for the partner for whom it can be nerve wracking, confusing and exhausting. Their emotional state, their concerns and their hopes are also valuable. If they feel strong, supported and emotionally nourished then they are better birth partners. Doula support for partners is particularly poignant if curve balls throw the birthing journey onto a different track. I have found that couples are often surprised by the value that the birth partner received from having a doula present and how this enhanced the whole experience for the new family as a harmonious unit.

A doula is a member of your birth squad that YOU chose

I cannot speculate as to how much control Meghan has over who is in her birth squad, but most of us don't get to choose everyone in our medical team. The process of hiring a doula involves meeting and interviewing several candidates and then choosing one with whom you have 'chemistry'.

As your relationship grows with your doula during your pregnancy, your bond strengthens. Your connection becomes unlike any other. You trust her implicitly. She knows things about you, your relationships and your emotional state that few others do. She knows what you need when you are most vulnerable, whether that's a hug, soothing words, encouragement or a silly joke. Your trust in yourself grows as does your confidence and when you're in labour and see her face you feel bolstered, safe and strong. Whilst the rest of your medical care team may be excellent and/or familiar to you, their roles are very different from that of a doula who's primary concern is your emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Research shows that having a doula makes a difference

Having a doula does not guarantee any kind of outcome when it comes to birth. However, there is a growing body of evidence (Cochrane Review) to prove that the presence of a doula can have many benefits to the birthing process (shorter labour, less intervention, healthier babies, lower PND rates etc). This is not because she waves some sort of magic wand but because of all the points that I've raised above. Imagine having all of that wise, compassionate, agenda-free, non-judgemental, care, love and support.
How would that make you feel? safe? Secure? Held? Able to release fear and tension? Full of knowledge and instinct? Able to trust in your mind, body and the process?
How you 'FEEL' effects how you birth because your emotional state and your chemical state are intrinsically connected. And your cocktail of chemical hormones directly control your body's ability to birth.

It's not rocket science. It's basic biology.

Doulas are for everyone

“Yeah yeah, but I'm not a Duchess, how can I possibly afford a doula”, I hear you say. Well, here's the great news. The price of a birth doula can vary from a few hundred pounds to a couple of grand. Many doulas offer payment plans and skills swaps and some have personal schemes in place where they will be occasionally be able to support a client for free. Furthermore, around the country there are many initiatives set up to provide doula support to the most vulnerable women. Please do not write-off getting the support you would like before asking around your local doulas to see how they may be able to accommodate your situation.

So why should you have a doula for your first birth?

I guess the real question is, why wouldn't you?

“A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth”.

-Anna Verwaal

Thinking about hiring a Doula and want to know more?

I highly recommend this excellent little book, Why Doulas Matter by Maddie MacMahon (affiliate link).
Check out and to find your local Doulas.

To read about my doula services and how I can support you pop over to BIRTH DOULA, PREGNANCY DOULA.

Side Note: I have used the female pronoun for doulas, but there are a couple of male doulas in the UK.

The Doula UK Conference 2018 Roundup

Siobhan Ridley

On 24th March I trundled off to London for my first ever Doula UK Conference. The theme was 'Supporting Survivors' and it was an incredible day of information, community and sharing. I was bowled over when I was asked by Doula UK to write a review of the day. So here it is: 


The Sixth Annual Doula UK Conference…my first Doula UK Conference. My first thought upon being asked to write a report on the day was ‘how on earth does one even begin to summarise the experience without it looking a bit like a list of superlatives?!’ Spoiler alert: there will be lots of superlatives. They’re well deserved.
Launched over a technicolour sea of knitted bosoms and warm smiles were the words of the wise, the profound, the practical, the lyrical and the hilarious. The Sixth Annual Doula UK Conference had something for everyone with its impressive list of speakers and workshops presenting on the topic of ‘Supporting Survivors’.


KICKI HANSARD: Nine Challenges in Childbirth for Survivors and Possible Solutions

Kicki launched the day with an insightful and hugely practical presentation. She shared her wisdom and experience of supporting survivors and shed some light on the many varied ways in which their histories may effect their emotional and physical responses to the birthing and parenting process. There were many valuable takeaways from this talk, but particularly useful were the range of potential triggers and how to anticipate
them even when you may not know that abuse has played a part in a woman’s life. Despite the recent unprecedented powerful #metoo campaign, it was still alarming to be confronted with some of the statistics around the prevalence of sexual abuse in our society. The biggest revelation for me was that a woman may not even remember that she is a survivor of abuse, but that experience is still internally logged. Kicki eloquently
and gently lead us through what that meant and how, as supporters of women, we should assume nothing about their story or how it has affected them. By the end of Kicki’s presentation there was a palpable passion promotion in the room and the glorious hum of “every woman should have a doula”.

MADDIE MCMAHON: Breastfeeding, Surviving or Thriving?

Maddie took to the stage to tell us a surprising story about women breastfeeding. This was not your usual boob story. This was about the very real and rarely mentioned breastfeeding trauma. Blimey, only the second talk into the day and I’m already on revelation number two! As the story unfolded we learnt how to identify breastfeeding trauma and how to use the doula superpowers of listening and signposting to support women. Maddie highlighted the value of the thriving breastfeeding relationship and the important role that doulas play in scaffolding and encouraging that in a politically entangled climate. She went on to expand on four very useful top tips for breastfeeding which should be in every doula (and indeed, mama), breastfeeding tool bag. I  particularly appreciated the opportunity to play with the knitted boobs adorning the tables (who wouldn’t?!). I always know a topic has fired me up when I’ve written on my notes: ‘google breastfeeding trauma’.


BRIDGET SUPPLE: Brian Connections and Trauma

I could listen to Bridget all day long. She packages up information in a way that makes the complex, clear, the profound, simple and the insurmountable, an achievable hurdle. Like any great teacher she came armed with a practical demonstration which she used to illustrate the ways in which neural pathways are created in the brains of human infants. It encapsulated why parental love, nurture and responsiveness are so crucial whilst also recognising the natural ebb and flow of life. It also served as an excellent visual to show that all is not lost when a baby does not receive a positive start in life and that as we grow, there is a chance always for change. This was a beautiful message generally for life. Bridget’s talk was a heady combination of informative and
uplifting and I for one found myself becoming quite emotional as she succinctly expressed my doula ‘why’. Doula support ripples out down the generations.


Dr DAINE S SPEIER and Mr RAJA GANGOPADHYAY: Holistic Strategies for Protecting Perinatal Mental Health

Consultant obstetrician Raja took us through the wide reaching effects of perinatal mental health, from infants in utero to immediate family relationships. He stressed the importance of communication within services supporting mothers and the important care that doulas provide. He had so much to share with us about his passion for improving the current systems that at times it was hard to keep up with him. I have certainly been inspired to read more about his exciting work. Diane’s focus was predominantly post-partum centred. She has created the handy acronym WELLNESS for parents which breaks down into eight areas of consideration
when creating a post-partum plan. Diane’s approach is a full body and mind nurture for the mother and family unit and is very aligned with the holistic support that doulas are so in tune with. It was a real joy learning from her wisdom and the energy medicine routine was the cherry on top.

HILARY LEWIN: Toolkit for Doula Self Care

The frankly radiant Hilary Lewin spoke about life as a professional doula and the ways in which we can keep our cups full. She covered topics such as setting rates, the practicalities of being on call and building your support network. It was lovely to hear about Hilary’s journey through setting up Doula UK and into her own therapy work and as the novice doula that I am, I felt a little star struck. As we sat there at our conference tables, looking up at the stage, it was clear that we were so very far away from a typical ‘red tent’, yet somehow, Hilary managed to bring the energy of the red tent to the room. There was dancing, laughing and sisterhood.

It is exceptionally hard to do any of these formidable speakers justice. In the brief time that they had, they all provided us with information upgrades, considerable food for thought, tools to use, and (arguably the most important of all) inspiration to find out more.


It felt monstrously cruel to make us choose only two workshops to attend out of such an amazing line up but I appreciate that delegates and speakers might not have wanted to bed down at the venue for the night. Although if the excellent food had continued to flow all through the night I would’ve happily brought a sleeping bag and PJ’ed up to listen to Rebecca Schiller on human rights or had bedtime hot cocoa to Mark Harris’s mind-bending. Suffice to say that I cannot comment on all the workshops but I can tell you that my personal favourite was Dr Mari Greenfield’s workshop on her recent PhD work on Choices after Birth Trauma. Her session was so full of excellent information and some practical tips that I was left wanting more.




Oh I could listen to this honey voiced wordsmith all day long. Dzifa’s poems struck at the heart of womanhood – softness, strength, vulnerability, power, sensuality. Her voice danced as she took us to underwater realms and mythological worlds. Her words resonated and enthralled. At times you could have heard a pin drop. As birth workers we are no strangers to discussions about language, debating semantics and verbal nuances. Sometimes this can all get a bit heavy and when it does, it is a gift to have memories of the way in which Dzifa sensitively and expertly composes language to paint emotions and moments of truth. It was a truly exquisite experience.

WILD! Laura and Kate (The Birth Project)

I never knew that it was possible to laugh hysterically whilst also experiencing pangs of sadness. Not until I saw WILD! that is. Such is the power of excellent satire. In a totally unexpected way, Laura and Kate took us on a journey through pregnancy and labour through the eyes of two women walking different paths. The butt of the jokes? Birth culture in all it’s messiness. For me, WILD! Could not have been a more perfect relief after a day of (amazing) mental loading. They were spot on at every turn with perspicacious jokes, animated actions, extensive video compilations and props galore. You’ve gotta love a prop basket!

I feel that I should also briefly mention the venue which was perfect in every way and the food which was superb! There was an unexpected breakfast buffet win and I am personally responsible for eating about 311 mini croissants. The lunch buffet was a smorgasbord of delight and the scrumptious snacks flowed at every break. Also, coffee on tap. Coffee. On. Tap. Enough said.

So there you have it. A run down on the Sixth Annual Doula UK conference. Like postcards of holiday destinations, this report hasn’t done the day justice. I haven’t mentioned the vibe, the giddy oxytocin atmosphere, the loving hugs, the gentleness, the passion, the tectonic shift that comes from being in a room full of intelligent, resourceful, inspiring, compassionate and loving humans. I haven’t been able to express how energising it is to come together to share and lift each other up. You’ll have to be there next year to find out for yourself what that’s like because no postcard will ever manage to capture that feeling. Of course, no report on the day would be complete without a heartfelt thank you to the incredible work done by so many to orchestrate such a wonderfully curated and jam-packed day. Bravo! Thank you Nikki Mather, Lizzie Jarvis and all involved.

Roll on next year…I can’t wait already!

  • Favourite new word: Pudendum

  • Favourite new fact: Breastfeeding trauma exists

  • Favourite call to action that I acted upon: Show gratitude to those who keep your home
    fires burning

  • Favourite new doula birth bag tool: Self belief

  • Favourite surprise moment: Swimming in Dzifa’s words

  • Favourite moment: All the doula hugs!


Article was written by me and originally posted by Doula UK. Click HERE to be directed to the original piece.