As a doula, I meet with many families looking for support during one of the most important events of their lives. The birth of a child is worthy of preparation, education and professional help. I think everyone deserves a great start on their journey to parenthood and should, at least, take a childbirth education class. Those expectant people who want to be even more prepared, read more, take additional classes and hire doulas. Many people looking for doulas come to the interview or consultation with questions, some of their own and some that they may have read online. A lot of people come to the consultation and don't know what to do, I have had pregnant people say, "How does this work? Do you just tell me all your experience?" There are tons of blogs and articles that list what to ask a doula but I'd like to dive a little deeper than just a list of questions so you may be able to gather your own questions more personalized for you and your family. I have taken a compilation of questions from a bunch of well known sites to give you questions and reasons why that information may be useful to make your decision. Whoever you choose as your doula will not be because these questions alone. Your doula will be a player in one of the most retold stories of your life, the birth of your child! Choose someone who you would remember will joy and not regret. Your intuition can tell you a lot about a person that a list a questions might not be able to reveal.
What is your training? Are you certified? If so, by what organization?
This seems to be the number one question on most lists. It is very important for there to be some training program. It probably shouldn't be that someone wakes up one morning, says, "I think I'm gonna be a doula!", goes to Vistaprint gets some business cards made and starts supporting families. According to DoulaMatch
there are 90 doula training organizations and no national standards or requirements for any of these programs. A program's certification process can also vary widely and some programs don't have a certification or renewal process at all. I certified with DONA and the process of certification took me almost 2 years, I attended a 2 day workshop, had to attend a breastfeeding class, a childbirth preparation class and read 6 books, assemble an extensive resource list and attend 3 births that fit the kinda strict qualifications for certification. It was a lot of stuff to do and I wanted an organization with a good reputation so I went with DONA. CAPPA's certification process is similar to DONA's and a bunch of other organizations are like this. There are also some organizations that don't require much, all the work is online and very little follow up from more experienced doulas, teachers or mentors. So when you ask your prospective doula about their training, certification and organization you may want to ask some follow up questions about their training or do some research about their organization before you hire them. Also, as certification is not always how organizations work, you need to ask yourself if that is an important aspect to your doula. Many doulas that have been in the business for years and have chosen not to renew for one reason or another. For some, recertifications it can be cost prohibitive, as you usually have to maintain membership in that organization as well. DONA's membership is $100 per year and the recertification is $80 every 3 years and that doesn't include the cost of CEUs.
How long have you been a doula, and how many families have you supported?
As a doula who offers other services I like the way this question is phrased. Some people ask how many births have you attended and if you are really interested in that number make sure you ask that question. I offer lactation services, postpartum doula services and childbirth education along with birth doula services so I have served dozens of families. I say dozens now because I don't know the exact number. I stopped counting births after 20 and have been honored to be invited into so many homes for a variety of different reasons over the years. I do want to add that even a doula who has done 1 birth has so much to offer, they have the passion for birth work and want to support you they best they can. There is a doula for everyone, that's why you are interviewing more than one. It's like dating, you may go out with a ton of people but eventually will find the right one for you.
Do you know my doctor/midwife/hospital/birth center? Do you get along well with my caregiver?
It is important for doulas to be familiar with the hospital or birth center that you are planning but, in my opinion, it is not a deal breaker. A doula familiar with the birth place is important because you wan them to know where it is and how to navigate the labor and delivery floor but a good doula will go on a hospital tour of a hospital they haven't been to.
If a doula says they don't along with your caregiver that could be a red flag. I try to maintain a polite, respectful relationship with any medical staff I work along side. My main goal is to keep things chill for the birthing person so they can do what they need to do to meet their baby. If a doula has friction with your caregiver or at a certian hospital and you aren't interested in changing practices or birth locations that may not be the doula for you.
When would you join me during labor?
The correct answer is whenever you want me to join you. It is then my duty as your doula to prepare you for labor the best I can so you can be as comfortable as you can be in early labor so you won't need to call me to come until things get more intense. This also goes back to your preparing by taking a childbirth class so you can learn how labor progresses and learn how you can best listen to your body. There should be a lot of communication between you and your doula once labor has begun, at least every 2-3 hours if not more depending on how your labor is progressing. Ultimately, your doula should come when you want them there even if its just to check in and then they come back again later.
How would you work to involve my partner?
This is one of my favorite questions! I love this one because its a joy to tell a couple that I want to help your partner help you. I usually follow that up by saying that we would work with their comfort level because some people don't like labor and placentas as much as I do. You and your partner love each other and want that to grow so you are having a baby. I think its important for the partner to be involved as much as they can be, if a doula has a hard time including any of your support people you may want to rethink that doula. I don't love every support person that I have met but I love that they show up to support the person they love through this tremendous life event.
What's your fee? What does your fee cover?
Level of training, certification, and experience usually factor into the fee a doula sets as well as well as the going market rate in your area. Doulas also may have other services or packages that you can bundle together, like birth and postpartum services. Some may offer discounts if you also take a class with them or want photography. According to the International Doula Institute Birth Doulas in big cities such as San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Los Angeles and New York charge about $1600-$2000 per birth. Doulas in big cities where the cost of living is lower than the above cities, such as Cincinnati, San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Austin will charge about $900-$1400 per birth. Birth Doulas in smaller towns will charge between $600-$1200 depending on their clientele.
The fees usually cover at least one prenatal visit, I have found 2 visits prenatally pretty common and 1-2 postpartum visits. This also includes your doula's availablity to you at a certain point in your pregnancy. I am available 24/7 starting at 38 weeks but available for questions at anytime from the date of hire. This should also include your doula's continuous support once you ask them to join you when you are in labor. Some doulas have a 12-hour clause in their contracts, and you should know before you decide to hire them if that is the case. A 12-hour clause basically means if they are at your birth for 12 hours they may call a back-up or stay but that could mean that you will pay an hourly fee for all time after the initial 12 hours. You should get clarification from the doula you are interviewing exactly what is included in her service package.
Some doulas include use of their lending library. It is sometimes possible to add extra visits and if you think you may need more time with your doula before or after the birth of your baby ask to add these in. There may be extra costs involved for extra visits.
What kind of back-up arrangements do you have?
All doulas should have a back up arrangement and it should be possible to meet the back up doula. In my situation I am in a doula co-op comprised of 6 doulas. I usually have one of them back me up and the others are also there in the event my back up needs a back up. It is always possible for my clients to meet my back up, they don't always want to meet the back up but they can. I might also add to this question to ask when the last time the doula used a back up and why. Things come up and life happens but if the doula you are interviewing uses a back up a lot and you aren't comfortable with that you might want to keep interviewing.
There are so many more questions that you can ask and I encourage you to ask all the questions that you need to to be comfortable making a decision. You may want to add questions regarding any cultural or religious preferences you might have or if you have any specific medical concerns. If you need more ideas for questions please see the links included below, feel free to email me or comment here if you have anything to add or questions.
After your interview you may want to talk to your partner or support person about the interviews you had with the doulas. Sometimes you and a doula just click and you don't need to interview any more. Sometimes it's more of a process, here are some questions you can ponder over after you have met with a doula.
Out of all life's big events the birth of a child is a pretty big one and not just for you but for everyone who loves you. What is a big event to you and you alone is the labor of your baby. Wanting someone to guide and support you through that time is an awesome idea and choosing the perfect for you doula is so important. Hopefully these questions and resources will help you choose the best doula for you!