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.

The Evidence - Why a Doula is Worth the Investment

Facts. Evidence.

Scientists thrive on it.  The rest of us rely on it for information.

Would you like to know the evidence for doulas?

In 2012, a review was published by Hodnett et al., of a study including 15,000 women from 16 countries and 23 trials of various settings and circumstances (1).  This review's objective was to "to assess the effects of continuous, one-to-one intrapartum support compared with usual care" (2).

It compared the support received from medical staff (nurse, midwife, obstetrician), members of the birthing woman's immediate social network (spouse, partner, family or friend) and someone who is neither of the former and is also experienced, trained and solely there as a labor support person (doulas) on labor and birth outcomes.

The "most meaningful support", aka, the continuous support with the best outcomes, was provided by the experienced, trained labor support person.

How did doulas compare to other types of support? Here are the numbers:

  • 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin

  • 28% decrease in the risk of C-section

  • 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth

  • 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief

  • 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery

  • 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

This information is not meant to invalidate the role of your loved ones or medical team at your birth.

Your spouse, loved ones, friends and family are experts in you.  

The medical team are experts in serving your medical needs of you and your baby.

As your birth doula, I am an expert in your desires for birth and am there to support you and your birth team as you achieve them.  

In the words of pediatrician, author and maternal-infant bonding advocate, Dr. John H Kennell:

It would be a honor to help you achieve the birth you desire as your doula during your birth in Central Missouri, whether it be Rolla, Fort Leonard Wood, Waynesville, St Robert, St James, Licking, Cuba, Dixon, Edgar Springs, Jefferson City… I will come to you!

This was Part 3 in the series, Why a Doula is Worth the Investment.  Find the first two posts here:

Part 1 - Being On Call

Part 2 - Professional, Objective Experience

References:

(1) Continuous support for women during childbirth (Review).  Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C.  2012. pg. 2.   <http://childbirthconnection.org/pdfs/CochraneDatabaseSystRev.pdf>

(2) Continuous support for women during childbirth (Review).  Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C.  2012. pg. 1.   <http://childbirthconnection.org/pdfs/CochraneDatabaseSystRev.pdf>

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.

Positive Pregnancy Affirmations

Hormones rage.  Your body is constantly changing.  So many thoughts run your head.  After all, you have nine months to dream, worry, wish, think, analyze, desire, and maybe even fear about  how your life will change and what this new person will be like.  Will my birth go the way I plan?  Can my body handle all these changes, all this growth?

While there are so many things in life and during your pregnancy you can't control {stretch marks, anyone?}, you can make a choice to control what you put into your thoughts. 

You can entertain the negative - the worries, the anxieties, the fears. 

Or, you can make a choice to encourage and empower your mind with Positive Pregnancy Affirmations. 

{Skeptical? Humor me, and humor yourself.  Take one minute of your life and TRY IT!}

Read through these affirmations and choose one that resonates with you.

  • I trust my body.

  • Today, I choose joy in my pregnancy.

  • My body knows what to do to nurture my baby.

  • I can do this!

  • I have patience, courage and faith.

  • I believe I can so I will.

  • I am deserving of an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy.

  • I can do this!

  • I am grateful for my body's ability to grow a strong, beautiful baby inside me.

  • I am excited to carry my baby.

  • It is safe for me to be happy during this pregnancy.

  • I choose to create peace within me and around me.

  • I set my worries aside and let me body do its job.

Take a deep, slow breath, filling your chest, into your abdomen.  Slowly exhale through your mouth.

Repeat your affirmation slowly to yourself or aloud as you continue to take deep, slow breaths.   Do this five times.

The repetition will help ingrain it into your memory so you can draw upon it in times of need. 

The affirmation that resonates most with you may change throughout your pregnancy. 

Please share this with your partner, you birth team and your doula so they can use these affirmations to encourage you, and share with friends who are also expecting that could benefit from more positive energy in their life and their pregnancy. 

If you are birthing in Central Missouri, from Rolla to Jefferson City to Fort Leonard Wood and beyond, and are looking for an encouraging, knowledgeable presence at your birth, let me tell you more about what a Birth Doula does and how {I} can help you to achieve the birth experience you are looking for.

Coming soon - Positive Labor Affirmations and Positive Birth Affirmations for your use during your labor and birth!


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.