First off, what’s a doula?
A birth doula is a trained support person who provides continual emotional, physical, and mental support and comfort during labor for a mom and her companion. Studies have shown that having a doula present during a birth results in less pain during labor and delivery, reduced use of pain medications, shorter labors, fewer major labor interventions, and positive and satisfying birth experience for the mom and her partner. (Click here to see some of those studies)
Throughout history, long before doula associations, training, and certifications were available, women had family members and friends by their side for support throughout labor. As the dynamics of birth locations and medical interventions have shifted, more and more moms are finding the value in hiring a doula to support them during labor. Doulas provide education, information, and support before, during, and after labor to help you make the best decisions for your birth.
But how do you find the best doula for you? Narrowing down the options by evaluating a doula’s training, experience, and certification are good places to start. However, these are not the only – or even the most important factors – in finding a good fit for your family. Here are a few tips in hiring the perfect doula for you.
Where to Begin Looking for a Doula
Ask a friend or other moms who have used a doula for recommendations. Keep in mind that each mom and birth are unique, so who they chose may not always be the best fit for you.
Ask your provider or midwife for recommendations. Since they frequently attend births, they have had experience with a wide variety of doulas and can tailor their recommendations to you and your family.
Birth educators are also a good resource to help you find available doulas in your area. Many birth educators are also doulas themselves and can be a great option, since you know their birth training and have started establishing a relationship.
Check local doula organizations in your area, such as the Utah Doula Association. These organizations also typically have a directory of doulas (organized by location) listed on their website (Kaitlyn note: UDA has a great directory!).
Interview Several Doulas
Most doulas offer a free consultation visit so you can get to know each other and make sure it is a good fit for everyone. I definitely recommend taking the time to interview several doulas.
During the interview, start with a few basic questions:
What services does she provide?
What are her fees?
Are there any additional services offered that could be beneficial to you (prenatal massage, placenta encapsulation, sibling support, etc.)?
What is her availability? Is she available for and around your due date?
As you talk, get a sense of if their services and fees line up with your needs, and test your conversational compatibility. Do you feel comfortable as you talk? Can you imagine the doula in your birth space?
How do their values and birth concepts line up with yours?
Although every doula wants what is best for their clients, their view on birth and interventions can vary. It’s important to know if the doula you hire has a preference for where or what types of births they attend (hospital, planned cesarean, birth center, home, etc). As you talk with the doula, is their overall view of birth positive? How do they respond as you describe your ideal birth and the kind of support you’re looking for?
Doulas should remain unbiased in their preferences, including what provider and hospital or birth location you choose. They are there to help YOU, but sometimes, past birth trauma or other agendas can get in the way. Through the interview, get a sense of how they view birth and if they are skeptical of your choices. Your doula should be able to give you support, resources, and information so you can get the support you need. Let your intuition guide you to someone who meets your needs best.
Out of all the factors in choosing the right doula, how you connect with your doula is most important. Birth is an extremely vulnerable experience both emotionally and physically, so you need to feel comfortable with the person who will be intimately involved in your birth space. Some people do better with a relaxed, very personal approach, while others prefer structure and professional boundaries.
If other people will be attending your birth, it’s a good idea to include them in interviews with potential doulas to make sure they get along and feel comfortable with them as well. A doula’s main focus is to provide you support, but they will also give a lot of support to your partner and others, and should integrate well with the rest of your birth team, too.
Overall, trust your instincts, and don’t feel the need to apologize if you feel you need to change doulas or ask for a different approach if something doesn’t align or feel right.
The same doula isn’t right for everyone! This is why every community needs a large doula community to support it, and why you should plan on interviewing at least a few different doulas. This will help ensure that you find a doula who will best fit with you and your birth. As you progress through your birthing journey with confidence and a good support system you will come to know that you were born to birth!