How to Find a Good Doula!
So you’ve decided to hire a doula? Great! Here in Utah we are blessed with many wonderful and professional doulas. But how do you find one? A good one! I have learned over the years that not all doulas are created alike. MANY are professional, dedicated, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. However some are over-confident, unprofessional, overbearing, or work outside of their scope of practice. I often hear people say to just interview a bunch and see who you “click” with, but I believe there is more to it than that. I think finding a doula that you like is important, having a good rapport is essential, but I have many friends whom I love dearly and have a blast with, but wouldn’t want at my birth. Hiring a doula is NOT like choosing a best friend. A good doula is more than just a gal-pal that comes to hang out while you’re in labor. She should be a true professional. So where should you begin?
Starting with a basic Google search is fine. Doulamatch.net is a national site that offers profiles and availability for doulas local to you. Here in Utah we are lucky to have a large community of doulas who form the Utah Doulas Association and their site is a wonderful way to search for doulas locally. You can also ask family and friends, your doctor or midwife, or consider joining an online community that’s local to you like the Utah Birth Forum on Facebook. These are great ways to get some names, and at this stage, I say, the more the better. Read through their profiles or take a look at their websites. Questions about her background and experience, her basic birth philosophy, and her pricing info should be easily answered without ever having to pick up the phone. Hopefully you can narrow down your search already just from this info so where do you go from here? When it comes time for an interview here are my tips for finding the true professional.
A good doula will return your e-mail or phone call promptly!
If she doesn’t have the time to get back to you right away then odds are she is ALREADY not a good match. You want a doula that is available to answer questions or offer support right away, not whenever she can “squeeze you in”. I am always surprised by the number of clients who tell me how many phone calls or e-mails they’ve sent out that were returned days and weeks later or never returned at all. Even if I am full or otherwise unavailable to take a client I always respond with a quick message or call to let them know and wish them well on their search.
A good doula will continue to learn!
You want a doula that is knowledgeable about a variety of topics and issues surrounding pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. Ask her if she has been to any conferences lately. Ask if she has attended any seminars or taken any classes. Has she received or renewed any certifications? Ask her what books she has read on the topic of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Ask for her opinion on new pertinent research. A truly professional doula is one who is continuing her education and this is a great way to weed out the rest. No one, not a veteran doula or even your OB/GYN knows everything and that’s why many types of professionals are required to complete continuing education courses to maintain their certifications or continue to work in their field. Your doula should be no different if she takes her profession seriously.
A good doula is actively involved in the community!
Ask if she is involved with any relevant groups or associations. Ask if she has attended any local support groups like those hosted by LLL (La Leche League), or ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) Ask if she is involved with a group like The Utah Doulas Association. Ask if she knows of or is involved with any postpartum support groups. If she is not actively involved with any groups like this, ask her why. How much time a woman spends in the community can tell you a lot about her professionalism and dedication. Ask her about her relationship with other doulas and birth professionals. One of the many benefits to hiring a doula is tapping into this community. When a new mother calls me with questions: say, breastfeeding concerns, I know right away how to help her. I know when and where local LLL meetings are held and, since I have attended them, I can reassure her right away how much they can help. I can also send her the names of a few great lactation consultants I know personally, and give her a basic run down of what to expect from a visit, cost, availability, etc. This insider info really sets apart a hobby doula from a professional.
A good doula maintains good relationships with other professionals!
Ask her to name a few of her favorite doctors, midwives, and nurses. Why does she like or recommend them? Ask what local hospitals and birth centers she has had the best experiences at. Also ask her who she doesn’t like to work with and why. A doula that has a lot of bad experiences to share is a huge red flag. I have seen some unfortunate things in my work, but the majority of providers and hospitals are really doing their best for mothers and babies. If she has many horror stories or gossip to share, consider that she is the one common thread. Maybe she is rubbing other professionals the wrong way? Maybe she often strays from her scope of practice?
A good doula loves EVERY kind of birth!
Even if you are planning an un-medicated birth ask how your prospective doula feels about epidurals or planned cesarean sections. A doula that “only does natural births” or thinks “everybody should have a home birth” is another red flag for me. A good doula, a professional doula, is there to support YOU and YOUR birth. The type of birth she would choose or prefers shouldn’t come into play. Her ability to educate you about available options is important, but a good doula will remain unbiased and support your choices.
Ask her about her backup(s)!
A good and professional doula will have regular backups that she uses and trusts and, yes, even if she takes only 1 client a month she still needs a backup. Any doula who tells you otherwise is being dishonest. Clients can go into labor early or unexpectedly, there could be a natural disaster, she could become very sick, or have a death in the family. A good doula won’t miss births often, but she absolutely will have a firm plan in place if she can’t be with you and you should be made aware of at least the basics of that even before you sign a contract.
Lastly how do you feel when talking to her?
Do you feel confident, supported, and informed? Do you respect the woman you’re interviewing and do you feel that she respects you? A good doula is much more than just a friend. She should be secure in herself, her knowledge, and her experience. She should be a strong and reassuring presence. Not arrogant, but confident. There is a point in every labor when a woman wonders if she really can do it. Of course she can, and her doula will see her through this time, her beautiful love-story of pregnancy and birth. A professional doula can be an amazing resource and support for you. Take the time to find a great doula and you will most certainly be preparing for a great birth!