This guide is to help you understand more about doulas and the services they can provide. Finding the right doula for you may be time consuming and frustrating, but it’s well worth the effort. Many women have experienced the benefits of adding a doula to their birthing team. It’s important to begin working on finding a doula around the sixth month of pregnancy or before, as this will give you plenty of time to weigh all your options. Whether or not you choose to hire a doula is a personal choice, and this guide will explain what doulas are, the advantages of hiring a doula, and where to find them. We will also go over questions you should ask your doula during the interview process.
What is a Doula?
A doula is a labor coach, trained to assist you during labor and delivery. They are with you during the entire process of labor and delivery, along with other members of your birthing team such as your partner and your doctor. When looking at doulas, it’s important to know that their education, training, experience, and credentials absolutely matter. If a doula is unwilling to show documentation of any of these items, you may want to consider using a different doula. There are numerous classes, courses, and programs that doulas must go through in order to get certified. DONA International certification is an example of a credible doula program. Doulas are there to enhance your experience, and are trained to be open to understanding and following along with your expectations and desires. Doulas are added support to all labor, delivery, and postpartum situations. You can hire them before your third trimester begins, right before birth, and/or after birth during the postpartum stages. Doulas usually find themselves going to the hospital, clinic, and even their patient’s home to perform their services. Services include:
- Provide constant support
- Lessen load off father or partner
- Lessen anxiety felt by mother
- Teach you about breastfeeding
- Teach you confidence in mothering skills
- Teach you how to cope with or without pain medication
- Lessen chances of needing a c-section
Finding a Doula
Finding a doula doesn’t have to be a chore. There are numerous resources available to you:
- Referral from a relative or friend
- Referral from a childbirth class instructor
- Referral from a midwife
- Referral from your OB/GYN
- Doula certification organizations (DONA and CAPPA)
- Online directories
- Social networks such as FaceBook and Twitter
Generally a Google search will yield local results for doulas in your area. It’s also a good idea to keep your options open, search online directories, and get a list of referrals from those you know. You may fall in love with the first doula you meet, but interview at least three or four before making a final decision. Interviewing can be time consuming, but being 100 percent comfortable with your doula is important, as you’re going to share a very precious and intense moment of your life with her.
Questions to Ask a Doula
Have a few questions prepared to ask during the interview process to ensure that the doula you hire is a good fit for your family. The questions that you ask will vary depending on what type of doula you’re looking for. Our recommendations come from the DONA International website at https://www.dona.org and include:
For any Doula:
- What type of training have you received?
- Do you have back-up doulas if you’re unavailable? Can we meet these people?
- What fees do you charge?
- Do you have a refund policy?
- Will they be available the month you are due?
For a Birth Doula:
- How much experience do you have as a birth doula?
- What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners during it?
- Can we sit down and go over my birth plan?
- Are you available anytime to answer questions we may have?
- When do you join us during labor? At home, at the hospital?
- Do you stay with us after the birth to answer questions?
- How do you get along with the hospital staff and how important is it for you to have a good relationship with them?
- Do you have a list of references we may call?
- Do you have strong opinions about pain medication? Do you support women who want epidurals? (even if you don’t want one, it’s good to ask)
- Describe how you work with the partner or husband.
- Do you have a provider number for possible insurance reimbursement? (This is quite new so don’t base your choice on it. It is very easy for your doula to get a provider number, so if you really like the person ask if she’d be willing to look into it. Also, doula insurance coverage is getting more popular but, is still in its infancy so don’t expect reimbursement.)
For a Postpartum Doula:
- How much experience do you have as a postpartum doula?
- What is your experience in breastfeeding support?
- When do your services begin after the birth of my child?
- May we call you with questions or concerns before the birth?
- Can we sit down and go over my birth plan and what role you will play?
- Are you CPR certified?
- Have you had a recent criminal background check?
- Have you had a recent TB test?
The Cost of Hiring a Doula
The cost of hiring a doula will depend on certain factors such as their experience, credentials, and the location in which you live. Certain geographical locations offer doula services for as low as $250, while other locations start doula services at $1,500. However, student doulas often perform services for free. They are already fully trained, but need to attend a certain number of births in order to gain certification. You may also want to contact your insurance company to see if they cover some or all of the cost of a doula. Some insurance companies offer a third party reimbursement. If you truly want to use a doula, don’t let the cost get in the way. Remember that most doulas perform as an independent contractor, so prices will vary between them.
The Advantages of Hiring a Doula
There are numerous advantages to having a doula on your team during your labor, delivery or postpartum. Advantages include:
- Answering questions you may have before labor and delivery
- Helping you develop a birth plan
- Easing your fears, anxieties, doubts, etc.
- Preparing you for the arrival of your baby
- Providing constant support
- Helping you readjust your position and your baby’s position if needed
- Helping you breathe through your contractions
- Helping you get through labor and delivery without the use of pain medication
- Helping you learn how to breastfeed
- Assisting you after birth, or postpartum, if desired