NCT Birth companions

Released on: 19 July 2011

University of Worcester and NCT launch unique Birthing Companion course

The University of Worcester has teamed up with the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) to launch a unique birthing companion course.

The nine-month course is believed to be the only one of its kind delivered by a university in partnership with a charity.

Mary Nolan, the UK’s only Professor of Perinatal Education, based at the University of Worcester, said: “This is an exciting collaboration between the University and the NCT to offer practical, high-quality training for birth companions, or doulas.

“Participants will receive a University Certificate and a Licence to Practise from the NCT.

The use of birth companions is sometimes misunderstood, but Professor Nolan said their role was to enhance the care received by a pregnant woman and her partner, not to replace midwives.

Rebecca Wierenga, NCT Birth Companions Coordinator, said, “Our training course has a basis in reflective practice, is skills based and includes an exploration of boundaries so the NCT Birth Companion can successfully work along side health professionals.  Ongoing professional support will be provided for the NCT Birth Companions including continuing professional development.”

Mary Nolan continues; “Labour can be a frightening experience for many women who have been brought up on a diet of soap-opera births and who have almost certainly never seen a baby being born 'in real life' before they come to have their own,” she said.

“It is therefore not surprising that they should want to ensure that they have continuous support. Women are well aware that midwives are very pressurised and that they may not be able to stay with them during the whole of labour.

“If the presence of a doula or birth companion means that the woman is able to be more relaxed during labour, it may well be that she will need less pain medication and fewer interventions and this will reduce expense for the NHS, as well as perhaps improving outcomes for mothers and babies.”

Professor Nolan said the course involved two residential weekends and three study days. Plus participants will be required to spend time shadowing midwives and will have to support an individual client through their birth.

“Doulas or birth companions who understand their role should enhance the care of women during labour, improving the quality of mothers' experience, and working alongside, but most certainly not in conflict with, NHS staff,” Professor Nolan said. “That is what we aim to deliver through this course.”

Professor Nolan said doulas were carrying out an age-old traditional role in providing one-to-one, woman-to-woman support during labour. “That of the wise woman who has herself given birth and who now supports other women while they are having their babies,” she said. “There is nothing new about doulas; the word itself goes back to Ancient Greece.”

At present the course is only open to NCT Specialist Workers however in the future the training will be offered to people with a firm grounding in reflective practice and with appropriate knowledge of labour, birth and early parenting.