So, you want to hire a doula. You’re going to have a baby and you’ve heard that having a doula reduces C-section rates and your friend said she couldn’t “have done it without” her doula and hey, it sounds great to have an additional support person there to rub your back, bring you juice and smile even when you’ve just pooped yourself. But how do you figure out which doula is the right doula for you?
After all, this is a person who will be there when you are (hopefully) pushing a baby out of your vagina. You definitely want to feel good about the person you’ve selected to support you during that momentous event! So, this doula (that’s me, by the way) has written a list of ten questions you, the pregnant person, should ask during a doula interview.
My suggestions on what to ask focus more on finding out more about your doula’s personality and philosophy rather than on how they run their business, although I have thrown in a few more practical ones, as well. There are many sites that provide a list of questions that are more along the lines of “What is your doula training/What is your fee/How many births have you done” if you’re interested, but I tend to think that if you’re already at the interview stage, you will have perused the doula’s website or at least had a phone call/email in which you find out stuff like how much they charge and if they’re experienced or not. So, as a doula myself, here’s what I’d ask if I were hiring a doula:
1. Why did you decide to become a doula? I love love love love LOVE it when potential clients ask me this. It lets me explain how and why I felt drawn to birth work. There are so many ways that people find their way to becoming a doula, from having an amazing birth themselves to having a less-than-amazing birth themselves to just having a fascination with giving birth, so I think it can be a powerful insight into someone’s motivations and passions.
2. Do you have a backup? How does your backup relationship work? This is KEY, you guys. Birth is unpredictable and your doula needs to have a backup doula, needs to have more than one backup, if possible. Getting details on what will happen if your doula can’t attend your birth and how they will let their backup know about you and your birth is really important because there’s always a chance that they will not be available.
3. What happens in the event of something unexpected? What if my labor is really really really long, you have a personal emergency, or I start to give birth in the car on the way to the hospital? Again, birth is unpredictable! Does the doula’s scope of practice allow her to assist if you were give birth without a care provider present? What happens if you’re in labor for three days and she just can’t keep her eyes open anymore? What happens if she breaks her leg the day before your water breaks? Having a general idea of what the procedure might be if things don’t go as planned is always helpful.
4. Do you have experience at my place of birth? With my care provider? I do a lot of births at one hospital in my area, so I feel comfortable there and even know a few of the doctors and nurses. For some people, this makes them more confident in hiring me. For others, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, I think it can be good to find out if your doula has experience both at your place of birth and with your particular doctor or midwife.
5. Do you have any other related training or specialties? Is this doula also a lactation consultant, does she do prenatal massage, does she sell postpartum products, does she rent birthing pools, does she teach childbirth ed classes, does she encapsulate placentas? Does it cost extra for you to use her other services? How do those other services benefit and/or enhance her doula work? If I were hiring a doula, this would be one of the first things I would ask, since it can make a big difference in terms of how much she is able to help outside of the general scope of providing support during labor and delivery. Many doulas provide other birth-related services or can refer you to those who can provide whatever you might be interested in.
6. What other commitments or conditions do you have around the time of my due date? Kids, other jobs, vacations, time commitments, birthday parties, weddings, etc. These things matter and it’s best to know about them up front. Ask if she has any other clients due to give birth around you, too. Having clients with close due dates doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a conflict, but I still think it’s useful knowledge.
7. What do you do when you’re not doula-ing? I’ve found that I work best with people with whom I share some non-birth related interests, even just something as simple as having both read and loved the book The Forgotten God or both having had "Boyz 2 Men" as our very first CD. Of course, you can be a total Type-A person who golfs in her spare time and hook up with a hippied-out doula who crochets baby hats from her leg hair and it might be an amazing experience for everyone involved. Either way, I find it illuminating to know a bit about someone outside of their doula work, like what their hobbies are, how they spend their free time, any other jobs they might have, even where they went to school, what they studied, or what their favorite movie is.
8. What makes you different from other doulas? This is an opportunity for the doula to talk a bit more about their history, training, philosophy, etc. I know this sounds a little too much like a question from a job interview, but I promise it will yield insightful answers!
9. What’s your favorite thing about being a doula? Again, another way to get some insight into the doula’s personality. No two doulas’ answers to this question will be the same and I think it’s interesting to hear what people love about this intense, demanding line of work.
10. How do you tailor your support to each birthing person and family? I think it’s common to ask doulas what their “philosophy of birth” is, but I’m a little resistant to that terminology, since it’s different for every client, at least for me. I am there to support a birthing person’s hopes and desires, not to push my own philosophy. That said, I do think it’s valuable to know what a doula’s basic convictions about birth might be….But it’s more important to know how the doula might tweak their approach, based on a person’s medical (and birth) history, birth preferences, emotional needs and wants, partner’s wishes, etc.
Not a question, but worth mentioning! The doula should ask lots of questions about you and your pregnancy, too! The bulk of the planning/preferences and of learning more about you and your partner (if you have one) will be after the doula is hired, but you definitely want someone who seems interested in you right off the bat.
This list is by no means comprehensive, of course, it’s just some suggestions coming from the doula’s perspective. What did you ask your doula before you hired her? Other doulas, what questions do you enjoy getting from prospective clients? Please share in the comments!
*Not all doulas are female, which is why I’ve used the pronoun “they” throughout this post.