Choosing to hire a birth doula should be a decision made between the mother to be and her partner. A couple should consider their goals and needs in a Birth Doula and hire the doula that best fits them.
What Doulas Offer
The Birth Doula is trained to support a couple during their pregnancy by offering information on the many choices in healthcare. A Birth Doula can be a great asset to a couple as they navigate their choices in prenatal care, labor and delivery and the postpartum period. This may include providing research articles on labor induction, various medical interventions that may be used during labor and birth and postpartum care for mother and the newborn. The doula strives to help the couple make informed decisions on the care of mother and baby.
What a Birth Doula Doesn’t Do
Sometimes confused with the profession of midwifery, a birth doula does not replace medical care or act as a care provider. Doulas don’t deliver babies or perform medical tasks such as checking the dilation of the cervix or the heart tones of the fetus.
Choosing a Birth Doula
It is common for a couple to interview three or four doulas to find a match in birth philosophies, personalities and skills offered. Some couples will look for a doula with dual training in massage, reflexology or hypnosis. Professionally trained doulas receive a basic understanding of relaxation and coping techniques. Doulas trained by DONA International are required to audit a childbirth education course as a prerequisite to their training as a Birth Doula.
Some choices for birth doulas include:
- male or female
- ages range from twenty-something through grandmothers
- styles may be very hands on, or more verbal encouragers
- some doulas attend only natural births while others may attend only high risk births that require cesarean section
- some doulas will work within a certain mile radius, others don’t mind driving hours out of their way to attend a birth
- recently trained doulas may charge only travel fees while very experienced doulas may charge fees similar to homebirth midwives
- doulas in rural communities tend to cost less than doulas practicing in very large cities
The first step in hiring a doula is finding a local one. An online search or referrals from coworkers or a midwife or doctor can be a good start.
Once a list of doulas has been collected the couple can contact the doulas and inquire of the basics:
- is the doula taking births around the woman’s estimated due date?
- does the doula travel to the selected birth location?
Does the couple have specific needs or questions for a doula? These can be asked in the initial email or phone conversation to avoid wasting interview time for the couple and doula. If the doula seems like a good fit initially the next step is to schedule an interview where the couple and doula ask questions about each other.
After interviewing several doulas the couple needs to narrow down their choices based on their goals and needs for the birth. Once the decision to hire a doula has been made all of the doulas should be contacted. Doulas that are especially busy may be contracted quickly so the couple should ask how quickly they should get back to her with their decision