Choosing the individual who will help you bring your baby into the world is a tall order. For some, that choices means picking an OB-GYN or a midwife. For others, that choice includes a doula. For those who may not know, a doula is a professional who provides support for a pregnant person before, during, and after labor. There are many doulas out there, though, and you’ll want to be sure you choose the right one for you. In other words, there are definitely some questions you should ask your doula before it's time to do the damn thing and bring your baby into the world.
When I was pregnant with my son, I knew my husband would be by my side when I gave birth. After a few months into my pregnancy, though, I realized I also wanted someone else to be my advocate when the going got tough and the contractions got tougher. I wanted someone with experience, who could help guide me through this life-changing moment and step in when my husband needed, say, a bathroom break.
So I started looking around and interviewed a few doulas. I chose one that I thought was a good fit at the time, but later on I realized she wasn’t. I wish I’d known more about hiring doulas when I was starting the entire process, because, honestly, very few things are most stressful than switching up who you're going to rely on when you're at your most vulnerable. So, if you want to make sure you've made the right decision when choosing a doula who will support you through labor and delivery, make sure to ask the following questions:
Where Were You Trained?
In my opinion, the first thing you'll want tok now about a prospective doula is how qualified they are. Find out where they trained (or if they are still in training), and if you can see copies of their certifications. Ask them about any other related experience, too, like if they attended nursing school or if they've worked with newborns in some capacity before.
They might also be certified as lactation consultants, or have Hypnobirthing knowledge, so tell them you’d like to know as much about their training as possible.
How Many Births Have You Attended?
The fewer births a doula has attended, the cheaper they are (usually). If this is your first time with a doula, though, it might be worth it to find someone with more experience.
Ask them about some of their experiences while at a birth, especially if any involved unusual circumstances (like a home to hospital transfer, a breech delivery, or an emergency c-section), and how they handled it.
How Will You Help Me Manage My Pain?
Every doula, just like every pregnant woman, is different. Some might offer to give you massages throughout your labor. Others might offer guided meditations, or simple things like making sure lights are low and soothing music is provided. They might help you with breathing techniques.
If you’re on the fence about pain medication, ask the doula how they feel about pain management, and if they’re going to support if you, say, change your mind and want an epidural after all.
Will You Work With My Primary Care Provider?
Making sure your doula is a good fit for you is the most important, but it's essentially that they gel with your primary care provider, too. The last thing you need is obvious tension between your doctor or midwife. Schedule a time when your doula can come along with you to a prenatal appointment, so you can ensure they're all on the same page and will work together to give you the best care and support possible.
How Will You Advocate For Me?
Your doula may or may not help you create a birth plan; essentially a blue print of how you hope your labor and delivery will pan out. Either way you need to make sure your doula respects that plan and, if necessary, advocates for that plan.
If a doula senses that something is about to be done against your wishes, she can gently inform you so that you can put a stop to it, or ask questions about why it needs to be done. Note that some doulas might not want to deal with a hospital setting, but don’t allow that to cloud your judgement. You alone should decide where you feel safest to deliver, and if your doula is not on board, it might be time for a new doula.
Do You Work Alone Or With Other Doulas?
Just like doctors and midwives have backups (in case they are sick, or tending to another delivery, or out of town), doulas should also have a backup. Find out more about their backup person, like their experience, training, and certifications. Also, ask if it’s possible to meet them ahead of time.
Do You Offer Any Other Services?
Your doula might offer some additional services that are not covered in the fee. While some might include initial lactation consultation, others might require additional charges if you need extended help with breastfeeding. Some doulas offer birth and newborn photography services, while others offer prenatal yoga classes, belly casting, even placenta encapsulation.
It definitely wouldn't hurt to ask what could potentially be provided to you, take a look at your budget, and decide if you want to take advantage.
How Much Do You Charge For Your Services?
At the end of the day, you are hiring someone for a job. As close as you might connect with your doula, they're not going to be a "friend" doing you a "favor." Make sure to ask how much your doula charges for their services, and everything that is included (how many prenatal and postnatal visits, as well as how soon they’ll be there for you once labor begins).
Rates may vary, so ask if they work on a sliding scale if you have any problems paying a large fee, or if they’re willing to accept multiple payments so it’s not such a huge burden.
Can You Provide A List Of References?
In my experience, asking for references for any person you're contemplating hiring is a great idea. Even if it’s just one or two, it will help ensure you’re hiring someone trustworthy and dependable.
You can also look doulas up online and see if their business pages have reviews, or if they are on the DONA website.
Finally, Ask Yourself If You Really Need A Doula
I think that doulas can be a wonderful addition to your labor experience. That said, I don’t think I necessarily needed one for mine. Everyone is different, so the level of support you ultimately choose is completely and totally up to you.
Think about everyone who can be there for you during your labor. If you’ve got a good connection with your care provider and have other loved ones who can serve as a doula without the fee, you might be better saving up those few hundred dollars for diapers, baby clothes, formula, and all the other hefty expenses that come with becoming a mom. Also, make sure you truly feel comfortable and safe in the care of your doula. If you have even the slightest hesitation, keep interviewing other people until you find the one for you. You’ll know you’ve got the right one when you find them.