Choosing A Doula

When I started my training in 2005 to become a certified doula the landscape was a bit different than it is today.  I was the only doula serving my area, I didn't know any other doulas, and facebook had yet to become the massive connector of persons across the globe.  The motto of the organization I was with at the time was "A doula for every woman who wants one".... but it was a long way off from being reality.
Fast-forward a few years, and it seems like there are more doulas now than there were people who knew what a doula WAS when I started.  The growth is exciting!  

Childbirth is an intimate, challenging, transformative experience, and many women today hire a doula to help them navigate it.  Having so many doulas to choose from means that women can find someone they really connect with to walk with them through pregnancy & birth. Unfortunately that search can be overwhelming when there are so many doulas to choose from. Where do you even start?  

If you are from the Quinte/Northumberland area (including Belleville & Prince Edward County)  there is a list of doulas available here.  Otherwise your local midwives, childbirth educators, yoga instructors and so on may know of doulas in your area.  Or you can search online by entering the word "doula" and either the name of your town/region or the name of the hospital nearest to you that has a labour and delivery unit. may also have a listing of doulas serving your area. Be sure to look through the first two or three pages of search results as some great doulas may not have the internet skills to get their page on top of the search rankings.  Browse through their websites or facebook pages to get a sense of what they offer and who they are.   Once you've done some online looking, get in touch with the doulas who interest you to find out if they are available around your due date and if they work with your caregiver (most doulas will work with all the local drs & midwives but occasionally you may find a doula who for any number of reasons does not work with someone).  If she's available - ask when you can meet for an interview!

I encourage you to meet each of your potential doulas face to face so you can ask them questions and get a better feel for who they are and what they offer. While the basic services offered are pretty standard, some doulas offer additional services, or have unique skills, interests, or experiences that might make her a better fit for you. Personality and philosophy of care are important too.  Some doulas are bubbly and outgoing; some are quiet and gentle... Some tend to be hands-off unless you tell them you need something; some take a more proactive approach... Some are very vocal in their role as your advocate, and others work more subtly to create space in which your voice is heard.  In the end, I believe the right doula for you is the doula you feel most comfortable with.   

All doulas I know offer a free interview and expect that they'll only be hired some of the time.  We're happy to meet with you and talk about what you're hoping for.  

Not sure what to ask a doula in an interview?  Here are some questions you could consider.

Can you tell me about your training and/or experience as a doula?

  • Are you connected with any larger doula or birth organizations? (for certification or anything else?)

    What led you to become a doula?

  • Are you familiar and comfortable with my doctor/midwife/hospital/birth center? 
  • Do you work with a back-up doula? Can I meet her?

    When & where would you join me during labor?

    Under what circumstances might you leave during labour? 

    Under what circumstances might you not be able to attend my labour/have the backup doula attend?

  • How do we get in touch with you when labor begins?

    • How do you feel about the use of pain medications during labor?

    • How do you help women who want a low-intervention natural birth?
    Which skills/techniques/comfort measures do you use the most at births? 
    (If you have a specific technique or method in mind that you plan to try, ask about her experience with it.)
  • Do you have experience with....? (ask about any specific or unique concerns you may have)

    How would you work with and involve my partner/family/loved ones?
  • Do you have anyone else due near the time I'm due? 

    • When are you on-call for me?

      Do you have any plans to be away near my due date?

    • How do you feel about birth plans?

      How often would we get together before the birth? After the birth?

  • What is your fee and what does it include?

  • What is your refund policy?

  • Do you have references I can contact*?

    After the interview, imagine your birth unfolding with the doula you just met at your side:
    How do you feel about her?
  • Does she communicate and listen well?
  • Will she support your choices?
  • Will she help you reach your goals?
    Will she be a positive addition to your birth team?
    Do you breathe a sigh of relief when you think about her supporting you?

Contact references if possible and ask them about their experience working with their doula.  Ask if there is anything they wish she had done differently.

Unless there is a real shortage of time, complete your interviews and sleep on it all for a few days.  If you think of any follow-up questions go ahead and contact the doulas you met to ask them.

Sometimes you know the instant you meet someone that she's the right doula for you, while other times it takes more work to find your fit.  When you've made a decision, send a quick e-mail to everyone you interviewed to thank them for their time and let them know that you chose someone else. Contact the doula you've chosen and get things started.  Then enjoy the journey together! 


Sarah StogrynComment