How to Hire a Doula

So, I’ve talked about why you should hire a doula.  But how to hire one?

Start looking by week 30 of your pregnancy.  This gives you time to do your research, find someone, and get acquainted.

Some doulas are trained and/or certified by organizations like DONA, CAPPA, or ToLabor.  If so, they should be listed with that organization.

Your friends, family, doctor, or midwife may have a recommendation.  What makes someone else comfortable may not work for you, though, so an interview is always in order.

Consider interviewing more than one doula, so you can contrast and compare styles and strengths.  Any doula should be willing to meet with you and talk over your plans and wishes before signing a contract.

One of the most important things to consider is how you feel around your doula.  You should feel safe and supported at all times.  

During your interview, ask how many births they’ve attended and how long they have worked a doula.  Ask for references.

Verify that your doula has a backup person in case of illness or emergency.  You should have the option to meet the backup doula as well.

Talk about your intentions for your birth. They can provide information, support and suggestions, but you’re steering this. If they get pushy about they think your birth should go, think about seeking help elsewhere.

Ask about how they communicate with medical staff.  There should be a goal of mutual respect, and they should be willing to work with medical staff, not take over.

Doulas generally don’t do any medical services. They shouldn’t be doing the things your OB/GYN or midwife does, like cervical checks, ultrasound, etc. That is outside scope of practice, and a potential red flag.

Ask about their experience with positions, comfort measures like massage and breathing strategies.  You’ll want to know that they can help everyone in the room remains calm and understands what is going on as the birth progresses.

Ask about what they do if a c-section becomes required.  Depending on the situation, a doula can still assist with emotional support during a c-section.

Ask if they have experience helping with breastfeeding or pumping (assuming you’ll be seeking that).

Find out what they do after the birth – do they help get you settled in at home? Do they do a follow-up visit?

They are there to support you, not make decisions for you. They don’t have the authority to act as an intermediary between you and the other birth staff, but they can help you by making suggestions as to how to get your point across or compromise when issues come up.  This is your birth, and your responsibility, but they’re there to help you!

In the end, find someone you’re comfortable with, that seems helpful and patient and knowledgeable.  Doulas are well worth the cost, and they’ll help you keep track of your goals and coping skills during your birth.

What do you suggest when choosing a doula?