Wednesday, 16 May 2012


A new birth doula service has been launched for parents-to-be in Thanet, offering emotional support for couples and families across East Kent during pregnancy. Rebecca Schiller, author of the blog The Hackney Doula and contributor to The Guardian, is a Doula UK recognised birth doula and will be moving to Thanet in the summer hoping to build links with local parents, birth professionals, midwives, doctors and health visitors.

Rebecca is particularly keen to reach out to expectant parents who previously might not have considered enlisting the help of a doula before for financial reasons – so much so, that initially she plans to offer her doula services free of charge. Fighting against common misconceptions by arguing that “a doula is not a luxury option, nor are we focused only on women planning a homebirth or natural birth,” she says:

“I hope that by initially working without charge I’ll raise the profile of the substantial benefits that a doula, working alongside the medical professionals, can offer.”

Given people's anxieties about maternity services in East Kent – such as the long delay in opening the £300,000 midwife-led unit at the QEQM in Margate, and the recent NHS consultation which concluded that birth services in Canterbury and Dover are to close, meaning women may have to travel at least 10 miles to give birth in hospitals – I reckon Rebecca's birth doula service could very well take off. As a young father myself, I can certainly see the benefits of how a doula could help on an emotional level.

Speaking from personal experience, during her pregnancy with our son Reece, my girlfriend didn't really have much to do with her midwife, only visiting her once in a blue moon for the prerequisite doppler check-up, blood pressure monitoring, etc. The whole midwife experience was very routine and methodical, almost robotic, which wasn't great considering we were worried sick about whether our baby boy was healthy and would've appreciated the support of someone with a more personal and sympathetic touch.

Basically, our son was in a breach position for the full duration of the pregnancy, and to top it all, our ultrasound scans appeared to suggest the presence of an amniotic band in my girlfriend's womb. An amniotic band, in case you don't know, is a lining of the amniotic sack which comes loose, floats around in the womb and has a risk of tangling up with the baby and potentially causing limb amputation. 

Given such worrying circumstances, it would've been nice if my girlfriend had had someone to offer her emotional support and reassurance, especially since the NHS doctors were reluctant to tell us exactly what was going on. I imagine it's situations like those where a doula would come in handy. Empathy, it seemed, was hard to come by, as most working in clinical professions kept their cards very close to their chests and made no attempt to allay our fears.

In the end, the midwife wasn't present for the birth of my son on account of the fact that my girlfriend was due to have a C-section, but her waters broke early and Reece was born the day before she was due in surgery. And the amniotic band? There wasn't one. It turns out the scan picked up that my girlfriend had a heart-shaped womb, so we worried ourselves sick for nothing. Had somebody been there for emotional support in times like those, my girlfriend probably would've enjoyed her pregnancy much more than she did.

If you wish to find out more about Rebecca's doula service, please make sure you go and visit The Hackney Doula website on You never know, it could very well end up being the future of NHS maternity services in the not-too-distant future!


  1. Hi my name is Jeanette and I am a Doula in Thanet. My website is
    I fully agree with all your comments and feel the role of a doula is so important.

  2. Hi my name is Jeanette and I am a Doula in Thanet. I thought your write up was very good and agree with all your comments. My website is


  3. Rebecca was my doula in Hackney and I can't recommend her highly enough! In the end we did not get on with the midwife who delivered our baby, and it was so comforting to have Rebecca there - a trusted expert who had been with us through the whole pregnancy. We think having a doula was well worth the money, but, lucky Thanites!