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The volunteer Bradford Doula project, which offers practical and emotional support to pregnant mums and their families before, during and after birth, through trained volunteers, has turned 12 years old.

To celebrate, the Bradford Doulas team held a big ‘birthday party’ and invited families who have recently been supported to celebrate together with the volunteers. This was a special opportunity for families to reunite with the volunteer Doulas who had supported them during their pregnancy, birth and first few weeks of parenthood.

Held at Carlisle Business Centre, the event was a huge success and was attended by 155 people throughout the day. Ten other community organisations and companies also came along to the celebration to make sure there was plenty of fun to be had, including face painting, henna, banner making, forest school craft activities and the infamous Bradford Stories Bus. Bradford Friendship Choir also gave a wonderful performance and got families and Doulas singing together.

The event also gave out 46 food parcels to families, thanks to the JKN foodbank, and nearly 200 eco nappies were distributed, thanks to Bradford Council.

A volunteer Doula is a ‘professional friend’, supporting women and birthing people make positive choices, accompanying them to appointments, providing practical support at the birth, building positive relationships with other services as well as offering emotional support. Doulas also advocate for families, speaking up in support of their choices.

Evidence shows that where a woman or birthing person receives continuous support before the birth, during birth and after the birth, they are more likely to have positive birthing experiences. Research also indicates pairing families with a doula from the same ethnic, linguistic or religious background is an important way to improve equity and provide culturally responsive care.

Bradford Doulas supported Omotanwa before, during and after the birth of her daughter, she said:

“Having a doula, it means you are in safe hands, which means you should not be worried…having them around me I felt so relaxed.”

Ruth Shaw, senior head of integration and change – women and children, Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, said: “The Bradford Doulas project helps provide mothers and families in Bradford with the maternity support they need to help their babies have the best start in life.

“This project, which was initially funded by Bradford City Clinical Commissioning Group 12 years ago and then enhanced as part of our Reducing Inequalities in Communities (RIC) programme, is responding to local needs and addressing the health inequalities we see across Bradford so that local families can live happy and healthy lives. Happy Birthday Bradford Doulas.”

Gill Thornton, Head of Programme at Better Start Bradford, said: “Bradford Doulas has been funded in the Better Start Bradford area as part of our innovative programme since 2015, supporting families with children aged 0-3 including pregnancy. We were delighted to join in the celebration as we have seen how much women and their babies benefit from this extra tailored support in pregnancy and childbirth. Our families love the Doula service and feel they and their babies get a much better start when they have a Doula alongside them.”

This short video captures highlights from the event and shares stories from families and volunteers about the positive impact Bradford Doulas has on people’s lives:

Bradford Doulas is continuously recruiting and training new volunteer doulas. If you are interested, please email: info@bradforddouals.org.uk

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