Your birth space is a sacred, intimate environment. As a doula, it is truly an honor when someone invites me to serve them at such a important time in their life.
I know when I think about hiring a doula for my birth in the future (not pregnant - just a planner!), these are the things with the knowledge of a doula AND as the desires of a doula client that I will look for, and that you may want to look for too.
What should you look for in a doula?
Education, Training and Knowledge
Is your doula knowledgable in childbirth (beyond having experienced it personally)? Have they attended a labor support / birth doula training? You certainly can have a loved one be your primary support person through your birth, but they are that, your loved one.
A doula is a trained professional who has devoted time, money, energy and education into their training and business. It is not only their passion, but their profession.
There are many organizations nationally and internationally which certify Birth / Labor Doulas and Postpartum Doulas. Some doulas choose to complete their doula certification and maintain this certification throughout their career. Some doulas attend a training and complete the coursework, but choose not to complete certification.
It is up to you what level of training is acceptable to you, but I encourage you to find a doula who has completed training and education in the birth field, and is actively pursuing to continue their education with relevant, evidenced-based information.
Does your doula support YOUR birth choices and YOUR view of how YOU would like to birth?
Ask them how they would support you in various birth scenarios: natural birth, with planned medical interventions (pain medication, labor augmentation or induction, epidural, etc), when unplanned medical interventions arise and even, in lieu of an unplanned Cesarean delivery.
Your doula should offer you unbiased support, regardless of your birth choices. They should not be coming into YOUR birth space with THEIR birth agenda.
I certainly have my feelings about birth, but those only ever come into play at my own birth experience, and never when I serve as a doula.
Comfortable and Confident
Most doulas offer a complimentary consultation (I do!) so you can meet them, get to know them and ask questions you have. Please, please, please - ask those questions! No question is insignificant or unimportant.
Whom you welcome into your birth space is an important decision, and it is imperative you find the doula who is right for you.
Do you feel comfortable talking to them? Do you feel comfortable asking them for evidence based information and their ability to provide it to you?
Do you feel confident in their ability to support you? Are you confident in their ability to remain calm and objective? Do you feel confident in their ability to return your inquiries in a timely manner and in their ability to arrive promptly when you give them the official "I'm in labor!" call?
My hope is that your answer is "YES!" to every one of these questions.
What I Didn't Address:
Personal Birth Experience
I don't believe that a doula has to have personally experienced birth to be an excellent doula.
Yes, I said it.
As of the day I am writing this, I am not a mother. Do I believe it hinders my ability to serve as a doula? No. The kind words of the clients whom I've had the privilege of supporting verify this statement.
Think about male obstetricians. They are trusted, knowledgable caregivers for pregnancy and birth, who have not experienced birth themselves.
I believe that doulas who have not birthed are the same.
I do understand though, that there are women who prefer to have someone who can completely empathsize with their situation. I have seen women who are seeking a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) want a doula who has experienced a VBAC themselves. That's ok. I completely believe you should have the support you desire.
I hope this helps you as you make the decision which doula is right for you.
Naturally, this post progresses to:
Certainly, each doula consultation is different. In this next post, I will recommend questions you may want to ask, and some unique ones that I have been asked!