A Doula Is a (Pregnant) Girl's Best Friend
The famous saying enlists a village to raise a child, but no one ever specifies how many people are necessary for a birthing team. Besides your healthcare provider's know-how and your loved ones' interpersonal support, you may be craving personalized but structured aid. Doulas holistically support pregnant women with evidence-based information, whether that's emotionally, educationally or physically. A doula's help may come in the form of products she recommends, instruction in breathing techniques to further birth contractions or even a great back rub when you're hours into pushing and getting discouraged. Theirs is a profession that balances along a fine line as educators, confidantes and one-on-one support.
So, how do you choose a doula?
Friends, family members, local parenting groups and even healthcare providers may have recommendations of good doulas. There's no better testament to the quality of service than word of mouth, so even if your immediate friends don't have children it's worth asking them to ask their outer circle.
Doulas of North America (DONA) is the certification board regulating doulas and happily enough, the name is a bit of a misnomer as they operate internationally. Their database is location-specific so even if no one you speak to knows any doulas, you can always plug in your zip code and get started on that list of potential hires. Choosing a DONA-certified doula is practically a requirement; the institution ensures the doula has classroom instruction as well as hands-on experience.
Before setting up interviews, sit down and plan out exactly what you're looking for. If you have a partner in the pregnancy, now is a good time to collaborate. Think about logistical considerations such as what you're comfortable paying, what you'd like to get out of prenatal visits and if you want support in the postpartum period. Discuss how much experience your ideal doula possesses, whether that's in types of births she's worked in and specific complications you may be anticipating or in the form of further certification, such as finding a Certified Postpartum Doula (PCD). The importance of hiring a doula you connect with can't be overstated.
A doula's help may come in the form of products she recommends, instruction in breathing techniques to further birth contractions or even a great back rub when you're hours into pushing and getting discouraged.
You'll most likely want your doula present, but it's worth checking hospital policy for how many people are allowed at births. If only your partner can attend, you may want to factor in a way for your doula to be digitally present. This is also an opportunity for your partner to make their needs known, particularly what kind of support, if any, they hope to receive from the doula.
Once you've assembled both your list of interviewees and your list of questions, it's time to schedule! Ideally, both partners will be present for the interviews but these details are up to you. Interviews are best conducted in semi-public or public areas such as a quiet cafe or a park as opposed to your home. Some people like to record the doulas' answers (with their consent, of course) to properly compare the interviews afterward, so bring a voice recorder or take notes.
What can a doula do for me?
The most important takeaway from interviewing a potential doula is that you felt comfortable in their presence. This is someone whose role is to serve and advocate for you while not allowing the pre-conceived birth plans to ever take priority over the safety of the delivery. Is this someone you'd want in your corner? Do you feel heard and appreciated? It's worth trying to see this doula through the eyes of a medical team because this person will represent you to your healthcare professionals. Are they an assertive but non-aggressive communicator? You're looking for some hybrid between a cheerleader, a kind but blunt friend and an advocate.
Perhaps you'll have a magic connection with a doula and sign the contract on the spot or maybe you'll need to sleep on the decision before calling your pick and informing the other doulas of your decision. So much of this choice comes down to your intuition. While it's a doula's job to listen to you, make sure you're also listening to yourself and honoring your instincts.