Interviewing a Birth Doula

As you approach the end of your pregnancy, you may be considering hiring a birth doula. Great idea! But how do you go about choosing one? This is, after all, someone who you are inviting to a very personal, intimate event in your life. It is an honor for her to be there. There are a variety of doulas available to help you. How do you select the one that’s right for your family?

If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.
John H. Kennell, MD 

For most people, let’s face it, cost is a factor when choosing a doula. Some doulas who need to attend a certain number of births for certification purposes may charge a nominal fee or even nothing at all. Others who are very experienced, may even be midwives or are in high demand, may charge more than $1,000. Some new or trainee doulas charge $300, others charge $850, but I’d say I’ve found that most in our area charge between $600-$800. So that might be question number one for you. But remember that while money comes and goes, you will remember the day you gave birth to your child forever. This investment can truly make a big difference in your birth experience.

Beyond the cost, exactly what you may expect from or will receive from a doula differs from one doula to the next. This is why the interview process is so important for the birthing mother, her partner and the doula. It is an opportunity to get to know one another, and evaluate whether you will all work well together during your labor and birth. As a doula, I definitely want the birth partner to be part of the initial meeting, or interview, as well as at least one prenatal visit at their home. It’s important!

Below are just some of the topics you may want to discuss with any doula you are considering hiring. These are merely suggestions to help you get the conversation started; you should feel free to talk with your doula about any concerns and questions you may have.

Questions you may ask a doula:

  • How did you become interested in supporting women through birth?
  • How long have you been a doula? Are you certified?
  • How can you help me achieve my goals in birth?
  • What do you bring to the birth? (literally and figuratively)
  • What is your philosophy of birth?
  • What can I expect from you? What is / is not included in your services?
  • Do you have a back-up doula in case you can’t make it to my birth?
  • Do you offer postpartum support?
  • When in labor should I call you? How long after the birth will you stay?
  • How familiar are you with the birth place / team I’ve chosen?
  • Do you have experience supporting women through an elective caesarean, VBAC, multiple birth, waterbirth (insert any particular circumstance that applies to you here)?

Questions your doula may ask you:

  • Where do you plan to give birth? Why did you choose that location and care provider?
  • Have you taken childbirth education classes?
  • What else have you done to prepare for labor, birth and early parenting?
  • How do you feel about natural childbirth? Pain medication? Induction? Caesarean section? Episiotomy?
  • Have you written a birth plan?
  • What kinds of things will you want with you at your birth place for your comfort?
  • What are your hopes for this birth?
  • What are your concerns for this birth?
  • How well do you tolerate pain? What do you do to deal with it?
  • Who else are you inviting to your birth?
  • What helps you to relax? What do you think you may want in labor (massage, water, soothing music?)?
  • What are you doing to prepare for your postpartum period?
  • Is there something about you that I need to know in order to best help you? For example, if you have a fear of needles, don’t like being touched when you’re agitated, are bothered by a particular fragrance or sound, or have a particular fear or concern, your doula needs to know.

Above all: Do you connect? 

Perhaps more important than the answers to any question above is how comfortable you feel with the doula. Do you click with her? As you reflect on your interview(s) and select your doula, consider the following:

  • Do you feel comfortable with the idea of having her at your birth?
  • Do you believe she will work well with others participating in your birth?
  • Do you have confidence in her ability to support you during birth?
  • Do you trust her to listen to you, respect your choices and advocate for you?

How to Find a Doula

Check with your local birth centers, midwives, childbirth educators – they’ll usually have local recommendations. You can also check the directories of organizations that certify doulas, such as DONA, ICEA, and CAPPA, among many others.

Did you hire a doula for your birth? Why or why not? 

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