Important Tips for Choosing Your Birth Doula

Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your child! As expectant parents, you are likely overwhelmed with the many thoughts, feelings and choices that come with preparing for a new child. Besides the obvious hospital and careprovider selection, there are also a range of products and services aimed at easing the time of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. While researching your birth options, you may have come across the many doulas offering their services and wonder how to choose the right doula for you.

Choosing a doula is similar to choosing a doctor or a midwife. It is important to have in mind the kind of birth support you prefer, and ask questions accordingly. Are you intending a vaginal birth or a cesarean birth? Will your partner or another friend or family member be present, or will you be on your own? Will you feel more confident with a doula who has given birth before, or is the connection you form with your doula at the first meeting equally important? What kind of support or services do you imagine receiving from your doula? Are there any religious or spiritual considerations you want tended to? How important is a doula’s level of experience? Would you prefer a more directive doula or one who primarily supports you in moving with your own flow?

As you go about interviewing your potential doula, be sure to ask the following 4 questions:

1. What kind of training has your doula had?

Once you have a reasonably clear idea of what kind of support you are seeking, start with asking friends and looking online. There are many doula training programs with varying degrees of length, depth of training and student accountability. When looking online and when interviewing potential doulas, look carefully at the training length and content, the training program’s philosophy and code of ethics, requirements of certification and the experience level of the course organizers. Consider the following questions as you conduct your research:

·      Is there a clear code of conduct and guidlelines for the role of the doula?

·      Is the training in line with your birth philosophy?

·      Does the training require an internship period?

·      Is there hands-on training for massage and other comfort measures?

·      Is positive or non-violent communication a part of the training (this is very important for your doula’s ability to interract in a positive manner with your birth team)?

·      Is there a responsible party to which you can lodge complaints or express concerns?

2. What is your doula’s personal philosophy?

While training is very important, it is not everything. There are many different doulas trained in many different environments, and while doulas from a particular training may possess certain common skill sets and philosophies, each doula has her own method of working with families as well as her own personal philosphy.  You will be spending some of your most intimate moments with this person.  Be sure that you feel comfortable with your doula’s philosphy and manner of working.  Your doula’s language and touch should make you feel comfortable and confident.  Just as when choosing a doctor or midwife, no matter the credentials or referrals, feeling comfortable with your doula is invaluable in relaxing into your birth experience, whatever method of birth you choose.  Listen to your instincts!

3. What is your doula’s level of experience?

If you are looking for an experienced doula to support you, be sure to ask about your doula’s birth experiences.  Asking open ended questions gives the doula an opportunity to explain how she works with parents in varying situations-just do not expect detailed birth stories as this should be against your doula’s code of ethics!

Consider the following questions as you interview your doula:

·      If you have a unique birth situation, how important would it be for your doula to have experience supporting other parents in this situation?

·      How does your doula cope with challenging birth situations, changes in birth plans and unexpected outcomes?

·      Are there any birth methods or interventions which your doula finds problematic?

·      If you choose or require a birth method or intervention which your doula does not typically prefer, how will your doula continue to support you?

Perhaps because of financial considerations or because you connect well with a particular doula, experience level may not be of concern to you.  If you choose to work with a doula-in-training, be sure to understand that while she is providing you with a valuable support service, you will also be providing her with an important learning experience.  Be sure to give your doula honest feedback about her support during your birth.

4. What services does your doula provide and what are the terms of those services?

Even if you get along with a doula well and are satisfied with her education and level of experience, you will want to be sure you are also happy with the services she provides and the terms of those services.  The basic services most doulas provide are a minimum of two prenatal meetings; being on-call for two weeks before and after your estimated due date; arriving as soon as possible after you request her at the beginning of labor; remaining throughout the labor until the baby is successfully breastfeeding or everyone is ready for a rest – usually 1-2 hours after the birth; a back-up doula for unforseen circumstances or very long labors and one postpartum visit either at home or in the hospital.

It is important to agree upon your doula’s terms of service, the cost for the service and the method of payment in advance.  I strongly recommend a written contract between parents and doula just to ensure that everyone is clear on costs and expectations for care.  These are frustrating topics to have misunderstandings about at a time when you should be focusing on your new baby.

Some doulas are also trained in other services such as prenatal yoga or pilates, homeopathy, aromatherapy, massage, infant massage, optimal fetal positioning, baby wearing or lactation consultation.  If you are interested in your doula’s other services, understand that there will likely be an extra fee and / or support schedule so be sure to discuss these topics separately from her regular birth doula services.

Doulas can provide invaluable support for new and expectant parents. As with interviewing any professional, it is important to be clear about your own needs and desires and find a doula who meets these as closely as possible.  To assist you in your search, you can find a list of İçsel Doğum doulas-in-training and certified doulas on our website.  Wishing you and your family a healthy and satisfying birth experience.

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