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Social enterprise firm aims to make birth doula services available to all

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The first ‘doula’ social enterprise company in the UK has been set up by two nurses in the Midlands.

Coventry-based nurses Marcia Blackstock and Harriet Vera launched the company to help socially disadvantaged women to access experienced professional emotional support and encouragement throughout pregnancy, birth and the first weeks of parenthood.

Doulas offer help to new mothers, including transport home from hospital, nutritional advice, breastfeeding guidance, newborn care assistance and maternal-child bonding support.

The company, Doula Consultancy Service UK, has also instigated the first ‘birth doula’ accredited training course through the University of Middlesex and the National Childbirth Trust.

The nurses are trying to secure funding from Coventry PCT and the local council’s social service department which they hope will commission their company to offer services to local women in socially disadvantaged groups.

‘Doulas have typically only been available to women who can afford to pay for their services,’ said Ms Blackstock, who is both a trained doula and mental health nurse at Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust.

‘A lot of women deserve doula care but can’t afford it – we are trying to get funding from social services departments and PCTs locally at first and then nationally.’

The company is also running courses across the country to increase the number of birth doulas. Since May, 15 doulas have been accredited.

Additionally, Ms Blackstock and Ms Vera, supported by the Department of Health, are set to establish the national Doula Council from 1 December. Its members will include doulas, volunteers and midwives.

‘We need accreditation and regulation on the role to work with government initiatives such as choice in maternity services and increasing the numbers of women breastfeeding,’ Ms Blackstock said.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Your article suggests that this enterprise is a ‘new’ concept.

    You are perhaps unaware that the 400 doula members of non-profit network Doula UK have been offering their services to disadvantaged women through accessing the organisation’s Hardship Fund since 2002. In addition, there are members working directly with Childrens’ Centres across UK, and with women from prison.

    The same article refers to plans to set up a ‘National Doula Council’ for ‘accreditation and regulation’ of UK doulas. Doulas are strictly lay birth and postnatal companions however, rendering statutory regulation would be inappropriate to their innate lay status. Furthermore, Doula UK has been providing a voluntary system of self-regulation for UK doulas through its Recognition Process since 2004. This period of assessment and mentorship is available for all new doulas who have completed one of Doula UK’s seven established ‘recognised’ doula preparation programmes.

    Your readers may also be interested to know that Doula UK has a Doula Council already in place, which includes a number of eminent midwives and birth activists, and which oversees the sound application of its Recognition Process.

    For further information please see www.doula.org.uk.

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