How do I choose a doula?
Trust your instincts AND your research.
How do I select the right doula for me?
Selecting the right doula is a highly personal decision. While it is important to ask questions about certification, experience, professional standards, and fees, it’s equally important that you feel you can connect personally with your doula. I would encourage you to narrow down your list via email and phone interviews, selecting no more than three doulas to interview in person with your primary support person/partner. Look for someone who listens to you, who shows a desire to support a harmonious relationship with your birth team (your midwife/doctor and any staff at your birth location), and with whom both you and your primary support person/partner feel connected.
Come to the interview prepared:
Who is your provider and where are you planning to give birth? Why did you choose this provider and location?
Be able to describe your needs and values surrounding your birth, such as any particular medical needs, what type of care makes you feel safest, and what kinds of things are most important to you in terms of birth preferences.
Do you know the rules about doulas at your birth site? Doulas must work within the policies of your chosen birth site, and cannot override those policies. Examples include whether or not a doula is permitted in the OR during a cesarean birth, whether there are restrictions on “visitors” during flu season, etc.
Bring your partner or any friend/family member who is going to be present at the birth with you as your primary support. It is important for your partner and your doula to be able to communicate well and feel comfortable with each other.
Plan to hire your doula early in the third trimester so you have plenty of time to work together prior to your birth.
Plan to take childbirth and breastfeeding classes, as a doula is not a substitute for being well prepared.
“Tell me about your training and certification.” Certification is important, as it shows a doula is committed to a scope of practice and other professional standards. Certification through any reputable organization can be verified by that organization’s home office.
“What arrangements do you have in the event that an illness or emergency (or another client’s birth) prevents you from attending my birth?” A professional doula ALWAYS has reliable back up set up for each client.
“How many clients do you take every month?” Doulas often take 2-5 clients per month, or more if they work in a partnership. A doula whose schedule is overloaded may send her back up to your birth because of clients giving birth at the same time or several back-to-back.
“Have you worked with my provider/at my birth site before? How was your experience?” Look for a doula who shows she can foster a team approach with care providers rather than having an adversarial approach.
The details are important:
Read the contract thoroughly. Ask questions about anything that is unclear to you, such as refund policy, on call times (typically from 37 or 38 weeks), and fee schedule.
Does your doula have restrictions on how many hours she will attend you in labor for the stated fee? Are there additional hourly charges after a certain amount of time?
Does your doula provide the services you expect? For example, if it is important to you that you have support at home before you go to the hospital or birth center, does your doula provide this? Not every doula does.
Do you feel compatible with the doula? Good chemistry and similar expectations are so important. A good doula provides you with non-judgmental support regardless of what you plan in advance or choose in the moment, and is not invested in you giving birth a certain way.