What Should I Ask My Doula? Frequently Asked Questions... and What to Ask Instead!

What questions should I ask my {future} doula?  

While I experience different questions in a doula consultation, many of them are the same.  

Here you'll find questions I get asked the most frequently - and ways to obtain more bang for your {answer} buck!

Frequently asked question #1: What organization did you train through?  Are you certified?

Training, education and knowledge are essential to any professional.  As a birth professional, it is imperative to stay relevant on current, evidenced-based information.

But, it is important that your doula know HOW to implement this information for the benefit of you, the client.

Ask this in addition to the above:  What aspect of your training will best help you support me as my doula?

Frequently asked question #2: How long have you been a doula?  How many births have you attended?

Both these questions get asked frequently.  While I think experience has tremendous value, I don't believe numbers necessarily communicate worth or ability.  

Does a new doula lack the ability to serve you well?  Does a seasoned doula who has attended hundreds of births have the ability to put their personal birth views aside to serve you in an unbiased manner?  

Ask instead:  How will you serve me my doula? Do you have testimonials from previous clients I can read?

In my own way, I'm trying to say - don't just look at the numbers.  I believe both new doulas and seasoned doulas have their own strengths to offer as your doula.

Additionally, hearing previous client testimonials can allow you insight to those who have been satisfied with their service as a doula.

Frequently asked question #3: When will you join me when my labor begins?

Your question should immediately be asked with this question:

Doula: "When do you want me to join you?"

You should discuss when you feel most comfortable having your doula join you AND which methods of communication are best to get in touch with one another.  

I am highly in favor of having a second phone number to reach your doula (if possible) if you are unable to reach them on their primary number.  Additionally, you should have the number for your back up doula as well.

Frequently asked question #4: What is your fee for doula services?  In what situations would you offer a refund?

Ask this instead: What services does your fee provide?  When can I view your contract?

By rephrasing from "What is your fee?" to "What services does your fee provide?", you as the client get more information as to the services you are investing in.  

Your doula should discuss this and more with you:

  • How to communication with your doula: how, how often and when (do they offer contact only during business hours for non-emergent needs?)

  • How often you will meet with your doula during your pregnancy and what happens when you meet (learning more about you, you preferred comfort measures, birth preferences, birth plan and more!)

  • When your doula will go on call for you

  • When and where will your doula meet you when you are in labor

  • How long your doula will stay with you during your labor and birth

  • Will your doula have a back up doula? In what situations would the back up doula be called? Do you get to meet / talk to the back up doula?

All these items should be covered in your contract.  Trust me, you want your doula to have a contract!  It communicates to you what you can expect from your doula and what happens if those expectations are not met by either party.

Frequently asked question #5:  Have you worked with XX provider at YY hospital / birth center?

Ask instead:  How will you work with my spouse/family member/midwife/obstetrician/nursing staff as part of my birth team?

Your doula is exactly that - one member out of many on your birth team.  Your doula should be there to support your birth choices and facilitate healthy communication between all members of your team.

Your doula should never speak on your behalf - this is not their role.  

What you can expect from your doula is resources to help you get the information you need by providing evidenced-based information, or presenting the question for you to ask by saying something like, "Did you have a question for Dr. X about the risks and benefits of Z intervention?"  

Finally, here are some questions you can anticipate your doula asking you:

  • What are you looking for in your doula?

  • What aspects of your birth are most important to you and as your doula, how can I best support you through them?

  • Who will be attending your birth?  How can I best support them?

Are you interested in hiring a doula for your birth?  GREAT!  Are you interested in hiring me?  Even better!  Find more information about how to hire me as you birth doula and how my services can benefit you HERE.  

DONA Certified Birth Doula and Professional Birth Photographer serving Central Missouri including Rolla, St. James, St Robert, Waynesville, Fort Leonard Wood, Salem, Licking, Dixon, Cuba, Newburg, Jefferson City and more; at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital and Phelps County Regional Medical Center.

What Should I Look for in a Doula?

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.

Unbiased Support

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:

What Questions Should I Ask When Hiring a Doula?

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!  

Additionally, I will prepare you for what questions your doula may ask you.