WHEN Hannah Robertson gave birth to her son, the whole experience felt out of her control.

“I thought birth wasn’t meant to be like that,” she said, “I was connected to lots of wires and felt things were happening really quickly, I was being moved on to get the bed free for someone else.”

Two years later, and heavily pregnant with daughter Daisy, she decided not to go along the same route and elected for a home birth with a midwife and the support of a doula.

Orginating from the Greek for female servant – a doula’s role in a woman’s pregnancy is to offer emotional and practical support and to be there at the birth.

For Hannah, it was a moment she describes as a road-to-Damascus experience.

“My daughter’s birth became the most amazing experience of my life,” Hannah said, “My doula nurtured me through my second birth and gave me the information I needed to make choices and feel listened to.”

“I felt like I could do anything,” she said likening the feeling of pride after her daughter’s birth of wanting to run outside with her baby held aloft in the same way the new born Simba is held up in the Lion King.

It was then Hannah decided she would become a doula with the aim of supporting other woman in having peaceful births.

It is a role which has since seen her help 60 women through pregnancy in hospital and at home.

Hannah began training and researching weeks after Daisy’s birth, taking a course with Mindful Doulas and gaining a diploma in antenatal education.

She has gone on to support many women through birth, meeting them before they have their babies and being on call to be with them from the 38th week of their pregnancy.

“It’s all about what they want and protecting their space. Giving birth is the most intimate time in a woman’s life,” Hannah said.

“It’s about having another woman there who is completely on your side and is there to do nothing but support you.”

Hannah said she strongly believes doulas are becoming more in-demand as increasing financial constraints limit the support midwives are able to give.

In the UK there are said to be about 1,000 doulas. There are more than 500 registered with Doula UK and five registered doulas in York.

However their value has been questioned by some. Writing online in the British Medical Journal a few years ago, anaesthetist Dr Abhijoy Chakladar said doulas are taking over roles that midwives should be performing and may even be compromising care by influencing clinical decisions.

But Hannah said the doula’s role is in no way to influence medical decisions, but to support the wishes and instincts of the mother to make the birth more comfortable and straightforward.

She said partners were sometimes sceptical to begin with. “Some men worry she will take their place, but they are always converted about the birth,” Hannah said.

“The longest I have spent with someone is 36 hours – for a man to do that on his own would mean he would probably be quite rubbish afterwards when he had to support the baby. There’s a lot of tag teaming so he can be at his best.”

Hannah, whose fee is £650 to £850 in most cases, said she feels privileged to have been at one of the most important times of life.

“Women should feel amazing after they have given birth,” she said, “That carries though in parenting. A lot of women out there have birth trauma. They are at risk of depression and feeling they have failed. All women should feel on top of the world.”

General information about becoming a doula or the work they carry out can be found at doula.org.uk