I know the importance of doulas and labor support -- and not just because I’ve been a certified birth doula for 11 years. Like many couples, my husband and I decided not to hire a doula for our first birth because we wondered what my husband would do if one was there. When baby number two came along, my husband said, “Have all the doulas you want!” We didn’t have to hunt for the perfect doula, because I already knew some wonderful women I met in childbirth education training -- it was an easy decision. For many moms, though, finding a doula is challenging. It’s crucial to find the right doula for you, as she’ll be the one person by your side during all of labor. Here are my tips:
Start your search early
Talk to friends who have used doulas and find out what they did -- and possibly didn't -- like about theirs. Find certified doulas in your area on the DONA International website. Full disclosure: I'm certified with DONA. Your doctor, midwife or childbirth educator can recommend doulas, too.
Ask questions about her training and experience, approach to birth, availability around your due date, backup plans in case she can’t come to the birth. Find out her fees and if they fit into your budget -- fees are all over the map depending on where you live and a doula's level of experience. Be sure to check references, too.
Go with your gut
Your doula will be by your side through the duration and labor and birth, so you want to make sure you feel comfortable with her. According to Patti Treubert, I.C.C.E.-C.P.E., C.D. (DONA), B.D.T. (DONA), C.L.C., "The family needs to feel she is the 'right' person to be with them, support them and advocate for them on the most important day. Most families can feel that when they meet with the doula."
If answers to your questions don’t sit well or your mothers’ instinct tells you she’s not the perfect fit, move on.
Remember this is your birth
If you sense a doula is biased one way or the other -- about pain medication vs. natural, for instance -- think long and hard about hiring her. Labor is unpredictable and sometimes the best laid plans go to rest. I’ll never forget this call from a potential doula client -- she started the conversation by telling me, “I want you to know I will probably get an epidural, and also I only have 5 weeks of maternity leave so I don’t plan to breastfeed.” When I replied, “Thanks for telling me,” her response surprised me. “Wow,” she said, “I’ve talked to some other doulas and when I told them my plans, they said they wouldn’t work with me -- they only worked with moms who wanted natural childbirth and planned to breastfeed.” A good doula will support your wishes and not follow her own agenda.
As you hunt for the perfect doula, keep these things in mind. There's nothing quite like the physical, emotional and informational support a doula can provide. Happy hunting!