I hired a coach for a calm birth; RECORD woman Why an increasing number of mums-to-be are putting their faith in a birthing doula.
The labour suite is a daunting place - but what if you could hire your very own birth coach to help keep you calm and focused as you have your baby? Pregnant women in Scotland are embracing the idea of the doula, a female birthing coach, usually a mother herself, who helps with everything from prenatal massage to being the mother's voice, relaying her wishes to medical staff.
Taking their name from the Greek word meaning hand maiden, the doula is not medically trained but focuses instead on mothering the mother.
The Scottish Doula Network has 21 women operating in all areas of the country, with fees ranging from about PS200 to PS1000.
All those registered with the Scottish association and also the nationwide one, Doula UK, must have completed a recognised training course, taught by experienced doulas.
Research shows that having a doula present can shorten labour, cut the need for pain medication and decrease the chance of a caesarian delivery by up to 50 per cent. Women who used doulas have also shown lower incidences of postnatal depression.
We spoke to a Scottish-based doula and a mum she helped through birth about their experiences. Here are their stories.
For more information, see scottishdoulanetwork.co.uk or doula.org.uk My doula was my voice when I wasn't able to speak for myself.
ELAINE FRASER, AGE 33 Elaine Fraser, of Stepps, near Glasgow, found Simona through the Scottish Doula Network and the women hit it off straight away.
After their first informal dinner meeting, Simona met accountant Elaine, 33, and Graeme, 37, twice more at home, ahead of her July 2013 due date. They discussed various birthing methods, whether Elaine wanted massage or reflexology during labour and how she felt about pain relief.
Even when Elaine found out that Graeme, an IT consultant, wouldn't be working abroad on her due date after all, she still was glad to have the help of her doula.
She said: "She was amazing. She came to an antenatal appointment with me and when I had a little scare after slipping down the stairs at 33 weeks she was so supportive and reassuring."
She'd planned a home birth with the help of her doula and midwife but after two long days in labour, Elaine decided hospital would be best.
Her contractions were erratic and labour wasn't progressing as fast as she'd hoped but she still wasn't keen on the C-section doctors suggested.
Elaine said: "Simona was my voice when I wasn't able to speak. She made sure the C-section wasn't being suggested because there was an emergency, just because the doctors thought I was tired. We persuaded them to hold off taking me to theatre and I'm so glad we did because Orla went on to be born naturally. I believe I've got Simona to thank for that. I think I would have been talked into a C-section otherwise."
Elaine is planning to extend her family and says she would definitely use a doula during the birth of her next baby.
She added: "It just makes for a really relaxed experience having a woman there who knows exactly what you're going through.
"My midwife was amazing but during a long labour like mine you can see several different midwives, due to shift changes.
"Having Simona there as a constant support made all the difference to me. I'd urge any mum looking for that extra helping hand to consider hiring a doula."
This is how our grandmothers used to give birth SIMONA MANCA, AGE 36 Mum-of-two Simona Manca, 36, had a difficult birth with her first child and called in a doula to help with her second.
It was the help and support she got from her female birthing partner that made her realise she wanted to train as a doula.
She's now part of the Scottish Doula Network and is a Mentored Doula with Doula UK after helping three mums bring babies into the world.
Simona, originally from Sardinia, has been living in Glasgow for nine years, working as a translator.
She and university academic husband Alessandro, 34, have two daughters, Elisabetta, four, and three-year-old Matilda.
Simona said: "Helping a woman give birth is the most amazing experience. I was on a high for days after my first doula birth."
Simona's training began in 2012 with a three-day seminar, followed by six months of home study to learn about the physiology of birth, hormonal changes and methods of pain relief and delivery.
She attended a birth as a doula for the first time in December 2012, for her friend Roberta Cretella.
After an initial meeting, Simona will often attend an antenatal appointment and then visit the mum-to-be at home.
When the woman goes into labour, she will help with simple things, such as putting on music, to more involved actions including massage and helping do exercises to speed up labour.
"Ultimately, I believe that women's bodies are amazing," Simona said. "If you can help build a woman's self-esteem so she can put trust in her body to do what it was created to do - give birth - that's so empowering.
"It's all about going back to a sense of community. This is how our grandmothers gave birth - women need women to support them."
Simona will be assisting at her fourth doula birth in May and is meeting more mums-to-be who want her help in the summer.
She added: "It's difficult to be away from my daughters for a couple of days during a woman's labour, but it's rewarding.
"I think I'm setting my girls a good example.
"They've already said they want to be a doula like mummy when they grow up and I think that's fantastic."
in 2012 seminar"If you can help build a woman's selfesteem so she can put trust in her body to give birth - that's so empowering
RELAXED... Elaine and baby Orla
EXAMPLE... Simona with Elisabetta and Matilda
SUPPORT... Doulas guide women through pregnancy, labour and birth