Ok! Now that you’ve scoured the online world of doula land, tracked down names and narrowed down your list of possible support partners it’s time to actually MEET with them. If you’re not sure how to find a doula to interview, check out Part One of this series So You’d Like to Hire a Doula?
I’ve pulled the 7 most common questions doulas are asked and expanded on them AAANNNDDD after this one I’m adding the top 4 questions I’ve been asked so far and why they ROCKED!
I’m hoping this post will help you get a really solid idea of who the doula you’re sitting across from IS, what she brings to a birth (not tools and tricks, but her mental, emotional and philosophical contributions too!) and whether or not she is the right support person for your birth.
Feel free to print this out and take it with you to your interviews! Leave a comment and let me know if you have a great question to add to the list or have been asked something that really sparked a great conversation!!
Ready to get started?? Ok..here we go!
1) What training have you had? Certifications? Association memberships? Why did you choose that/these organization(s)?
Why it’s good: This questions is one of the most basic and straightforward ways to start the conversation with your potential doula. In asking this you will determine their base knowledge, standards of practice and code of ethics. Is your doula also a certified lactation consultant? A registered massage therapist? An aromatherapy practitioner? As a doula we are NOT permitted to provide medical care, but many doulas who hold these types of certifications have discounted packages on their medical services when you book with them as a doula so be sure to ask.
How to make it better: There are DOZENS (actually, I think it’s over 100 but don’t quote me on that because I really haven’t counted to confirm) of doula certification organizations out there. Make a note of which organization she has certified with and have a look at their website for their standards of practice and code of ethics. These websites will also often have a grievance line or procedure.
KEEP IN MIND: Certainly a doula doesn’t HAVE to be certified to have a good base of education. A great many doulas choose not to certify (if that is the case definitely ask why and what she feels the benefit is to NOT certifying) and pursue their educational development on their own. These doulas are not bound to a code of ethics or standards of practice by an organizing body, however that also does NOT mean that they don’t operate with a high degree of professionalism, ethics and understanding of a doula’s role.
2) Do you work with a back up and may we meet her?
Why it’s good: Most doulas will reach out to their community at large to help each other with back up support. If a doula has an unbreakable appointment or critical life event (such as a surgery, if she is a member of a bridal party or the bride herself, her grandmother’s 99th birthday party and so forth) she will notify her backup partners (and clients!) well in advance that she will be unavailable during that time. If you are in labour and your doula is already AT a birth you may need to rely on her backup support as well.
Make it Better: Be sure to ask HOW OFTEN she has had to rely on back up support and for what reasons. Are you comfortable with your doula using back up for events such as school recitals for her children, birthday parties (in general, not necessarily grandma’s big milestone), girls nights out twice a month, book club, ‘day job’ critical dates? If you are – lovely! If this is something that matters a great deal to you, it is very important to know. If you are NOT able to meet with the back-up doula (possibly due to the other doula’s schedule or availability at the time) ask if you can arrange a phone call or email exchange to get to know her a bit before you decide.
Keep In Mind: Many doulas book 2 to 4 clients per month. The chance of needing to call a back up doula because of overlap is very slim, however if you want a doula who is devoted to one birth at a time be sure to ask about it!
3) What is your fee and what does it include?
Why it’s good: Well, it’s nice to know what someone’s fee is before you hire them yes?
Make it better: Most doulas provide at least 1 or 2 prenatal meetings, being on call for your birth from 38 to 42 weeks of pregnancy and a postpartum visit. As for the fee, doulas, even certified doulas, are unregulated. That means they can charge as much as they want for any reason. If you have a fairly new doula charging as much as a very seasoned doula I would be concerned as to why. Would a brand new accountant walk into a corporate office and expect to be paid as much as someone with 5 or 10 years’ experience? Probably not. And yet in MANY areas this seems to be rampant. The justification seems to be that these doulas equate the value of LABOUR SUPPORT IN GENERAL with the fee they charge, and not with their own experience level and what they have consistently provided for many clients. Labour support IN GENERAL is extremely valuable. I believe that a doula should charge what she believes her services are worth and certainly should not be expected to LOSE money or work at the poverty line because she is newer. But they should also be able to back up their fee as it relates to their OWN experience. If they can’t, I would be very curious as to why they are charging what they are.
KEEP IN MIND: Just because a doula is NEWER doesn’t mean she is not worth her fee. It is MOST important that you find a doula you are comfortable with emotionally. If you feel like she is a good fit for you philosophically, emotionally and physically then her fee is probably ‘worth it’ to you and that’s ok too!
4) What are your refund policies?
Why it’s good: Just as in knowing what the fee is, it’s good to know under what circumstances you would be able to reclaim it.
Make it better:In addition to change of heart refunds, ask about circumstances such as very fast labours, if a back up doula is used, if they fail to arrive due to traffic, accidents or personal emergencies, if YOU fail to call THEM, and if they are not permitted into the operating room in the case of cesarean birth.
5) Tell me about your experience as a birth doula
Why it’s good: Knowing how many births they have attended is often a better indicator of experience than certifications. How many operations a heart surgeon has performed will determine your confidence in them more than which school they went to (most of the time!).
Make it better: While a doula SHOULD NOT offer personal or specific details about a birth she has attended, you can ask whether she has had experience with certain interventions, VBACs, non medicated birth, medicated birth, inductions, cesareans, home birth, birth centre births, very fast or very prolonged labours…the list goes on. If there is something that is of particular concern to you definitely ask if she has had experience or training related to it.
Keep In Mind: Everyone has to start somewhere! If you are looking for a reduced fee or newer doula they may not (likely won’t) have much, if any, experience to offer. Instead, ask about her own birth experience, how her training is going, and how she plans to bridge that gap. Will she shadow a senior doula in the community? Does she have a community to reach out to for ideas and information?
6) What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners?
Why it’s good: This is a critical question. Always ask. Are you adamant that you want a hands off approach to birth? Do you have considerable fear or anxiety surrounding birth and want every intervention possible? Do you have absolutely no idea what to expect? How your doula feels about and approaches birth has a direct tie to the type of support she is willing or able to provide.
Make it better: This is a big one. If your doula says she believes epidurals are the scourge of the nation and she does not attend medicated births that might be fine and dandy right now. What will happen if you change your mind midway through a long birth? Or decide halfway through that you want medication? Will she leave? What is her approach regarding the things she is passionate about? Will she be able to provide unbiased and non judgmental support if you make a choice that you know she is passionately against (elective induction, early cord clamping etc)? Don’t be afraid to ask how she supports a mom that does not share the same philosophy – or one who’s plans change once labour starts or if things move in a direction that was not anticipated.
Keep in Mind: A doula with a strong philosophy about birth or birth culture that is different from your own may still be a great fit for you – if you feel she will still be able to provide non judgemental and unbiased support.
7) When do you join women in labour?
Why it’s good: This is good to know information. Some doulas don’t join families until late stage or very active labour or when they’re already at the hospital or en route. If you feel well supported by your partner that might be ok for you. After all, if a doula is called very early there is not much she can provide, is more likely to tire and be less effective later on when you need her more, and her presence too early may indirectly increase pressure for you to ‘hurry up’ and have a baby (I call it the “watched pot” scenario – it also happens sometimes when you go to the hospital too early and you start to feel like you’re on the clock).
Make it better: Also be sure to ask how long your doula needs from the first phone call to actually arrive. The average is 1 to 2 hours. If she is called while in the middle of her grocery shopping she will need to pay for her items and take them home before leaving. She may be in the middle of a dentist appointment, in the shower, walking the dog, cooking, at a meeting with another client, needing to arrange for child care and actually drive to her provider to drop off her child(ren). The more notice you can give your doula the better, but if she expects a 4 hour window of arrival from the time you call saying you need her ASAP that would be good to know ahead of time.
PHEW!! Ok that was a long post – but I hope that it is helpful in pushing past the ‘common’ questions and answers and getting to the root of which doula is right for you and your birth experience!!