In this series we have already talked about choosing the right medical provider and the right location for your birth. We also talked about how these choices work with one another. Choosing your doula is no different. Since doulas typically work in many different settings with a variety of providers they are a valuable resource for learning about the doctors and midwives in your area as well as the hospitals and birth centers. While it is not within a doula’s scope of practice to make decisions for you they can give insight on a variety of providers and locations that have a reputation for supporting your birth wishes. In some cases a couple will choose the right doula for them and, with the education and insight the doula provides, will realize that they are not with the right medical provider and/or location for their birth plan. If you do decide to change medical providers and/or locations your doula will be there to support you through that change.
So how do you know which doula is right for you? Just like with many other choices it starts with a little bit of research. You can find information about doulas in your area from many different sources including your doctor’s or midwife’s office, websites such as Doula Match, friends and family that used a doula, local mom groups (in person and online), your childbirth educator, etc. Some things to consider as you narrow down the options are special training that the doula has that you feel is pertinent to your birth plan, experience with the type of birth that you are planning, experience with the style of childbirth education/coping that you plan to use, the doula’s profile and whether or not her birth philosophies resonate with you, the reviews other parents have left on Doula Match or the doula’s personal website. Keep in mind that just like with finding the right medical provider and location for your birth, finding the right doula for you is very personal. A doula that is perfect for your best friend, neighbor, or a complete stranger may not be right for you. As you listen and read reviews listen to your own instincts and not just what others have said.
So, you have done your research and narrowed it down to 4-6 doulas that you think are good possibilities for you. Now what? The next step is to call or email the doulas and find out if they are available around the time that you expect to be birthing. You will also want to let them know what location and provider you have chosen to make sure that they work with them. Then comes setting up an interview. Most doulas will do an in person interview with potential clients though some may prefer to set up a phone or video interview before meeting in person. Once the interviews are set up you will want to think about the questions that you want to ask to learn more about the doulas both personally and professionally. Some examples of questions are listed below. You may also wish to ask your doula other questions based on your personal needs to get to know her and her communication style a little bit better.
- How did you become a doula?
- What types of births do you typically attend?
- What is your philosophy on birth?
- What trainings and/or continuing education classes have you taken?
- How often do you communicate with your clients during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum?
- How many births have you attended?
- What trainings and certifications do you have that apply to doula work?
- How many moms are you typically on call for in a month?
- Do you have back up doulas and if so who?
- Do you offer any other services that I might be interested in such as lactation support, postpartum doula services, cloth diapering education, childbirth education, etc?
- Are there any other fees-such as a per hour charge if labor support lasts more than a certain amount of time?
Your doula will likely ask you some questions as well. Some questions may include what childbirth education you have or plan to take, what role you expect your doula to play in your birth, what role your partner plans to play in your birth, etc. Doulas are very aware that they are not the right fit for every mom or every birth plan. They often use this interview to make sure they feel confident they can give you the support you are looking for. Most doulas want you to be completely comfortable in your birthing space. If for any reason they think they may not be the right person for your space they will let you know.
Perhaps the hardest part of this comes after the interviews. After you have interviewed all of the doulas on your list you then have to make a decision about which one is right for you. This is usually difficult because many moms find that they like all of the doulas that they interview. That is great! Doulas are often friendly, out going, and open minded which makes them very likable. However, you do have to pick one that is the best fit for your birth experience not just to have coffee with. Some factors that may help one doula to stand out as a better choice for your birth might include their cost, specialized training that is pertinent to your birth plan, other services that they offer in addition to basic labor doula support, and how their expertise fits with your birth plans. I also encourage you to listen to your intuition. It may seem that your intuition is pulling you towards the doula that on paper is not the best fit. Do not discount that feeling and trust yourself enough to know that you can make good choices.
Lastly, just like your medical provider, you can always make a change. Sometimes you pick a doula that seems to be the right fit and realize upon further discussion that they are not what you wanted or needed for your pregnancy and birth support. If that happens it is ok to move on to another doula. Yes, that will typically mean that you lose any deposit that you paid and financially that can be stressful. However, knowing that you did everything to prepare for an empowering birth, no matter what that looks like in the end, can be invaluable when processing your experience after baby has arrived.