Doulas are trained to provide emotional, physical and educational support for mothers during all parts of birth, and are considered by many to be indispensable to women wanting to have a positive birth experience. So consequently this is one of the most important decisions that an expecting family can make while planning for the birth of their baby. Finding a doula can be a very time and heart consuming process… Which is why we here at Doula Spot are creating ways to give you more options to find, connect and interview doulas in your area.
I suggest looking for a doula by the end of your second trimester to make sure that you are giving yourself enough time. It is also important to note that your “dream doula” can end up being booked already if you wait too long to start the interview process.
It may be a good idea to make a list of your top 6 and start with an email or phone call. How does the conversation flow? Do you like this person initially? Do you like her philosophies? Which midwives or hospitals is she most familiar working with? Does she feel available? How long does it take for her to get back to you?
Then narrow it down to your top 3 and schedule interviews either in person usually at a coffee shop for tea or lunch. Be sure to give yourself enough time to engage with and talk to as many available doulas as possible and I guarantee that you will find “the one”.
During your interview, here are the questions I suggest asking:
1. Why did you become a doula?
This is one of the most important questions you will ask! Being a doula is hard work, is emotionally draining, has sporadic hours, and does not pay amazingly well. The women who meet you have chosen this as a career generally have chosen it from a pure place of love and a connection to other females and expecting families. Warning: this question will most likely come with a story!
2. What sort of training have you had? Are you certified?
While there is currently no legal certification in the United States for doulas, there are a number of respected schools offering certification. Different schools require different levels of training, and also teach difference birth philosophies. Learning about your doulas training and how she feels about it will give you a better understanding of her style and philosophy around birth. Some doulas may have hands-on training but no formal certification. For example some apprentice with midwives. Either way find out more about her background.
3. How many births have you attended?
For a truly experienced doula, the golden numbers of births attended is a minimum of 40. While each birth is unique, this number will generally equip any birth worker with the knowledge to deal with the vast majority of situations that arise during birth. Less births, however, should not be a deal breaker if you genuinely feel a trust towards your doula, and are comfortable with all of her other answers. Also, finances may prohibit you from choosing a more experienced doula.
4. Do you generally work with home births or hospital births?
This is a very important question! Most doulas tend to stick to one or another. Learning about the type of births your doula tends to attend will also give you more insight into her philosophies. Doulas spend more time in home births concentrating on your comfort than in hospital births where advocating becomes more important.
5. Which hospitals are you most comfortable with? Why?
An experienced hospital doula will be able to give you more honest insight into which hospitals will support your birth wishes. Also, your doula will be able to be more effective if she has a working rapport with hospital staff.
6. Are you part of a collective? Who is your back-up?
If your doula is not part of a collective, at least she will have a back-up available. She may have a few black-out dates that fall within a week or two of your due date, or else she may get sick or injured! Who is her backup? Can you meet them? What is their experience? These are all important questions to ask!
7. How many clients do you take per month?
Most doulas will not take more than four clients a month. If your doula is taking more than five without being in a collective or solid back-up partnership that that should be a red flag. If she is taking multiples it is even more important to inquire about her back-up, she may already be at another birth when you go into labor!
8. How much do you charge?
This is an important question! Experienced doulas will charge between $800 – $1,800+ for a birth package, which generally includes 1-3 pre-partum visits, being on-call for two weeks before your due date until you give birth, and one post-partum visit. This number is an estimate only and fluctuates greatly depending on experience and location. (For example we are based in the SF Bay Area where living costs are notoriously high, and doula rates here reflect that). As in any freelance position, there are many variables! Some beginning doulas may charge only a few hundred dollars, and some celebrity doulas may charge $5,000 or more!
9. What does that include?
A typical doula package will generally include 1-3 pre-partum visits, being on-call for two weeks before your due date until you give birth, and one post-partum visit. Some doulas may charge separately for pre-partum, post-partum, and the birth itself. Many doulas will offer other specialized services.
10. What kind of specialized services do you offer?
In addition to their regular support services, some doulas may offer additional help for you, such as: massages, food preparation, placenta encapsulation, photography, belly casting and more.
11. Do you have experience in complicated births like mine? (If applicable)
If you are planning a VBAC, to birth multiples, a breech birth, or another complicated birth, ask if your doula has had experience with your situation. If not this is not a red flag, but it will help you to make an informed decision.
12. Are there types of pain relief or interferences you do not support? Why?
Some doulas have very strong beliefs about various interventions, make sure that her beliefs align with yours and ask why. The classic stereotype is “all doulas are only pro-natural birth and will not support me if I choose to be induced or have an epidural.” This is simply not true. While there may be some doulas with this extreme stance, and while many doulas are pro-natural, that does not mean they will support you through any decision. Some doulas may have bad experience with certain interventions, such as seen a death from Cytotec, or watched too many doctors use Pitocin unnecessarily, and have formed strong opinions on different practices. Ask why she is against something, and if you disagree move on. Please ask!
13. Will you support me through any decision?
This is a follow-up question to the former. Even if a doula has preferences, ask what will happen if you choose something she is not comfortable with. You should have a doula who will support you. This is your birth, not hers.
14. Are you a mother?
The stigma is that a doula cannot be a good doula without having given birth herself… There are plenty of amazing doulas out there that have not yet given birth, or cannot. There is no way to make up for the experience that comes from going through birth personally, but in that same way there is no way to disengage completely from your own experience while supporting another. Having a doula who is also a mother may tack on years of experience, but it is not a red flag if she is not.
15. Do you like her? Do you trust her?
These are perhaps the most important questions to ask yourself about the doula you are interviewing. This woman will be by your side through an intense journey. She will see you at your most vulnerable, and in order to help you, you must trust her! No matter the reason, there are some people we just don’t feel right around…. Something about their smell or personality or the way they move drives us crazy. If you don’t feel comfortable around your doula, then regardless of how good a doula she is, she might not be the best doula for you. Trust your instincts!