Many women and couples are now choosing to hire a professional birth doula to support them during their birthing journey. If you’re considering hiring a doula, here are some tips on where to find one, and what you should ask her before you seal the deal.
If you are looking for a birth doula, I recommend using the Doula Locater at www.DONA.org. Other options include asking your midwife or childbirth educator for a referral, or doing a Google search for birth doulas or doula groups in your area. Many doulas and doula groups have their own individual websites. Here in San Diego, we have www.beautifulbeginnings.org as well as several others.
I also recommend interviewing several birth doulas before deciding on one that’s best for you. Here are some points you may want to consider, and questions you may want to ask when you interview a doula…
- What kind of training does she have? Is she certified? How experienced is she? Has she given birth herself? Has she worked with your OB or midwife, at your birthplace? Can she provide references? What is her fee? Does she accept monthly payments or require one lump sum?
- What services does she provide? Does she have training in any other areas such as aromatherapy or massage? Will she come to your home in early labor? Can she offer suggestions for comfort and facilitating labor?
- What is her availability around your due date? How will you get in touch with her? Does she offer 24 hour phone support? Does she have a backup doula in case she is not available? Can you meet her? How many clients does she accept each month? How often will you meet prenatally and postpartum?
- What are her philosophies on childbirth? Do they “feel right” to you?
- How do you get along with her? How about your partner? Beware- personality conflicts can bring negative energies to a birth. You should feel confident and positive with her.
- Discuss your partner’s role at birth. She should be enthusiastic about support for both of you- offering her skills while supporting and enhancing your partner’s role.
- What does she expect from you in terms of preparation for birth and assuming responsibility? Although doulas act as advocates, remember that you and your partner are the parents of this baby, it is your birth, and you are the ones who must ultimately assume responsibility for decisions that are made. The doula can provide information and point out alternatives, but she cannot make decisions for you!
If you would like to have a doula, but are worried you can’t afford one there are several options available! Many doulas love their work so much they are willing to offer it on a volunteer basis, I know, because I am one of those doulas. I am not sure of the best way to find a trained/certified volunteer doula, but you could try searching your local Craig’s List, posting a wanted ad on Craig’s List, doing a Google search for volunteer doulas in your area, or simply try asking around. There are some hospitals that offer volunteer doulas to all patients, such as UCSD Medical Center in San Diego- if your hospital offers these services by all means take advantage! If you are a military family, there is an organization called Operation Special Delivery with doulas that volunteer their services to active duty military families. Another way to find a low or no cost doula is by contacting the organizations that train/certify doulas such as www.DONA.org (others listed below) and ask for a list of doulas who have recently completed their training, but are still working towards certification (you may have to get the name of your local doula trainer and contact her for the list of doulas she recently trained). Most doulas have to attend a certain number of births before they can get certified, and these doulas are often eager to volunteer at births in exchange for the experience they will gain.