Jody, a 27 year old from south Sheffield is one of more than 400 women supported by Sheffield City Council’s doula programme which trains volunteers to support and empower women in the latter stages of pregnancy, during labour and birth and for the first six weeks of family life. The programme is now looking for volunteers to begin their training in September.

Jody was five months pregnant with very little support. With a six year old boy and no family nearby who could help, she was increasingly worried about the birth.

“I was panicking” she said. “I was thinking what if I go into labour and I don’t have anyone there.”

The programme has been running since 2011 and referrals rose by more than 70 per cent last year. The authority, one of the only councils in the country to run a volunteer-doula scheme, is now recruiting a new group of doulas.

Jody said: “When my midwife first suggested I have a doula it was horrible. I felt embarrassed like I should be able to do it by myself. It was like she felt sorry for me.

“But then I thought about it and thought I’d give it a go, and it changed everything.

“My doula was there for me for absolutely everything – for phone calls, to go along to scans. I didn’t tell anyone else I was in labour, just my doula. And she was there the whole time. She wasn’t in my way, she didn’t try and take-over. She was just there for me.

“I don’t know what I would have done without my doula. I think I would have gone mad with stress. I’m so glad I accepted the support. She changed everything.”

Sheffield City Council runs its doula programme to help women during one of the most important, and vulnerable times of their lives. Women are referred by midwives and the authority says results are positive: women with a doula are more likely to breastfeed (72 per cent of mothers breastfeed 6 to 8 weeks after birth, compared to 55 per cent nationally) and some of the most vulnerable or isolated women have someone with them during their labour and delivery.

Jody is so inspired by her experience that she has applied to become a volunteer doula herself. She added: “I want to become a doula because I think about how much I struggled myself.

“You tell yourself that you can’t do it so many times, you make yourself feel isolated, you stay in and don’t go out, and you don’t need to.

“And then they tell you that you can do it and it makes all the difference. There are women out there who don’t even know the support is there for them. I’d love to be that support for someone.”

Councillor Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “It’s wonderful to hear that our doula programme is helping women like Jody. That’s why we run it: to help women before, during and after childbirth, to make things better for them.

“The results show that having a doula can have a very positive impact on mothers and their babies’ wellbeing and that means everything to us.

“I’d like to thank all the volunteer doulas and hope we see many more come through the programme, so we can help even more women in Sheffield.”

There are around 50 voluntary doulas at any one time.

To apply to become a volunteer doula visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/caresupport/health/maternity-infant/become-a-doula-volunteer

Training starts at the end of September and runs for around six weeks. The next recruitment following this will take place in January 2017.