Thinking of having a doula present at your baby’s birth? Here’s some information on how to find a doula, and a great one at that.
A doula (which comes from the ancient Greek meaning “woman’s servant”) is someone trained and experienced in childbirth who offers physical, emotional and informational support to a mother in labor.
Different from midwives (who are health professionals trained to provide primary care to women and babies during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum), doulas often work alongside doctors, labor and delivery nurses and midwives but don’t replace them.
A doula’s purview can include: educating expectant parents about childbirth options, helping define a birth plan, advocating on behalf of the parents with medical providers and attending to a laboring mother (via massage, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises). According to a recent study, having a doula may help decrease non-indicated cesarean births and can also help mothers and babies have shorter hospital stays, require less medical intervention and breastfeed more easily.
But what’s the best way to choose one? Here are SmartMom’s seven suggestions:
Have a heart-to-heart with your partner
Before you start researching, before you start interviewing, explore how you both feel about having someone present and involved at the birth of your child. “Doulas can help you have the birth you envision,” explains Bir Kaur Khalsa O’Flaherty, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based childbirth educator, doula and prenatal yoga teacher with Elevate Birth, “but you’ll be allowing someone into a very private and special moment—a time when you’re at your most vulnerable—to support you. So both members of a couple need to be okay with the decision to have a doula.”
Define Dad’s role
Take the time to figure out what your partner’s role will be at the birth. Because while Hollywood tells us dads should be present and active, our culture doesn’t really educate men on how to do that beyond “You can do it, honey! You’ve got this!”
“So many expectations are put on dads,” says O’Flaherty, “and that’s not really fair. Even if they’re the World’s Best Dad already to a bunch of kids, that doesn’t mean they necessarily know the best ways to support a laboring woman.” So, ask your partner if he’d like to be your primary support, or if he’d feel better having someone more experienced on hand. “It doesn’t make him less of a dad or a man to admit he’d like someone there who’s been through this before,” reminds O’Flaherty.
Do Your Homework
Start your search with the Doulas of North America or CAPPA (the Childbirth and Post Partum Professional Association), and ask around on the SmartMom app for word-of-mouth recommendations in your area. If that doesn’t pan out, ask a local midwives association or holistic health provider if they can recommend an experienced doula working in your region.
Hiring a doula is like hiring any other healthcare provider—it’s all about personalities clicking. Some important questions to ask when meeting a doula: Does she have other clients that are due around your due date? If you’re planning on having a hospital birth, is she comfortable working with a team of doctors and nurses? Does she have any past clients she can put you in contact with in order to ask about her support style?
“Once you think you’ve found the one, interview a few more just to make sure,” suggests O’Flaherty.
Define the Doula’s Role
Figure out exactly how much and what kind of involvement you think you might like. Do you want her focus to be primarily coaching you through the birth? Or would you rather have her orchestrate more of the experience (helping liaise with medical staff etc?). It might also be useful for the doula and your partner to hammer out who’s going to do what when it comes to supporting you, and to ask about which labor-coping techniques she favors.
Set the fee and the scope
Once you’ve talked through what the doula will be doing, settle on a fee. Many range from about $800-$2,500, with an average of about $1,000, and that includes a prenatal visit, labor, delivery and a postpartum visit to check on mom and baby.
Create a birth plan…and then relax
Work with your partner to create a birth plan, knowing that there will most likely be detours along the way. Once you and your partner have established what you’d like to have happen, go over your preferences with your doula so she’ll know what you’re aiming for.
Ultimately, a doula is like a coach—someone who’s there to cheerlead for you and run interference when the pain gets bad. But how the experience goes is still up to the mom-to-be.
“It’s an important event that you’re inviting someone to take part in,” says O’Flaherty. “A doula is there to help you in any way you want help, but not to control the day. The experience—the pregnancy, the delivery, and the baby—they’re all yours.”