Hiring a Doula: The Do's and Don'ts

So, you're considering hiring on a doula to help you and your birth partner through labor, follow this helpful Do's and Don't guide to help you through the hiring process. This post is loaded with insider information and written from a doula's perspective, let's face it, you're inviting an outside person into your sacred birthing room and that's a pretty big deal!

First:

DO your research.  If you've already read a little about it or heard about doulas from a friend and want more information, you can learn more here and there's an amazing article here. You can also google information or visit your local library. 

DONT make a decision to hire a doula without truly understanding what doulas offer and make sure that what you are looking for in a birth doula falls within in our scope of practice. Doulas do not do battle with medical staff, intercept or perform procedures or speak on the mother's behalf.  I for one think EVERY laboring woman needs a doula, and research has shown births accompanied by a doula are shorter, there is a reduced rate of medical interventions, reduced requests for epidurals, higher success rates with breastfeeding and a reduction in the rate of cesarean births, so I'm pretty biased at this point. 

Next:

Do make a list of doulas to meet. Find a doula! at doulamatch.com. You can also find doulas on the Georgia Birth Network site, or checkout the newly launched site Atlanta Birth Pros or by googling, word of mouth or by going here. Look for doulas who you'd like to meet. Browse their websites and check out their social media accounts to see if you can discern a bit of her personality from those sites. Pay attention to her services: What does she offer? Are there any extra perks? Does she fit your vision of who you want in the room with you? 

DO look into meeting with doulas who are within your budget. If a doula does not list her prices on her website it may be because she uses a sliding scale fee type system and may be able to offer a discount, email her to find out more about her fees. Most doulas who are working towards their certification will offer a discount of some sort as well. 

DO spend quite a bit of time on her website, reading her information, blog posts, frequently asked questions, pictures, testimonials, etc. Print this worksheet from the baby center, it's a pretty comprehensive list of things you are going to want to know about your potential doula and fill it out using the information you get from her website.

DONT print the sheet or a list of questions and take it to your doula consultation/ interview to quiz her. Use the sheet and see how much of that information you can get from her website. If there are questions not covered on her website email her to find out more information. That way you've freed up a lot more time to talk during the interview and really get to know her and find out more of what she can offer you. It will also impress her that you've taken the time to check her out.

DO discuss your desire to hire a doula with your birth partner whomever that might be (partner, husband, mom, sister) before the two of you interview a doula. Let them know that hiring a doula will not be replacing the help that they can provide you but instead is offering an addition source to offer help for the both of you. A doula is an addition to your birth partner, not a replacement. 

DONT let your birth partner talk you out of having a doula. If the decision comes down to a matter of price, some doulas may reduce their fee for you. MOST will offer a payment plan of some sort. 

Finally: The Consultations (da da duuuuunnnn)

You've found a few you want to interview, now what?

DO meet at least 3 or more doulas. To get a feel for who is out there and what services they offer. Most doulas offer a free consultation. Some doulas will charge a fee of about 25 dollars for a sit-down interview. If you hire her, she will deduct that money from her total fee. If you decide not to hire her, well, then she's paid for gas, travel expenses and maybe that triple, venti, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato she enjoyed while she waited for you to arrive. Most doulas will have a meeting spot that she will meet you at for that initial meeting that she uses for most potential clients, some are more flexible and will meet you closer to where you live, and if hired all prenatal appointments will usually be in your home.

DO bring your birth partner with you if at all possible so that they can observe and develop an opinion of her as well (and vise versa).

DONT argue or haggle her doula fees or ask her to convince you that her fee is "worth it". Let's consider a break down of a doula fee: Let's say she charges $600 (the lower end of the price range of a doula in the Atlanta area, in New York and California doulas charge thousandsssss of dollars per client).

Example of hours per client: 

  • Prep/ research: 3 hours
  • Prenatal appointments and phone calls: 6 hours
  • labor: 12 hours (of course I'm using an average here some labors are shorter, some longer)
  • Postpartum immediately after delivery: 3 hours
  • Postpartum visit (after you go home): 2 hours
  • Driving time: 6 hours (depending on hospitals in area and her service radius this could be much more!)

total of our above scenario which describes a pretty basic breakdown: 32 hours and that's looking at a hourly rate of about: $18.75 and I didn't even add in the hours that she will be on call for you 24 hours/day for a week or two before your due date until you've delivered (and that usually means missing and rescheduling a few of her personal functions), gas, parking, meals and snacks when she's in the hospital with you, arrangements for childcare if she has children, the hours of  text messages and emails exchanged and the extra little things that a lot of doulas do for their clients like little gifts (because we come to love you guys, really!) 

DONT treat your consultation as an actual "interview" but rather opening up a dialogue and having a conversation. Share some of your fears, issues or thoughts of how you envision your labor going and ask her how she plans to support you in that. Are you planning on having an epidural? Fine, ask her how she supports a medicated birth. You're going to try a VBAC, talk to her about it. Share your previous birth experiences. Get to know each other.

DO notice which doula you felt the most comfortable with, who was easiest to talk to? Did she ask you questions? Engage your birth partner? Was she warm and friendly?

DONT get caught up on how many births she's attended. (I know, right? you're like, that's the most important part, right?!) Well, not necessarily. Here's the way I see it. Whether she's done 2 births or 200 births, she's never supported you through your birth right? You're strangers and you will have to get to know each other. Each and every birth is basically a first birth because each birth is different (you follow?) Your doula will have to custom tailor her support to your specific needs, and will not know how to specifically help you until you're actually in labor and she can observe how you react to labor and how your baby is tolerating labor. If she's been trained by a reputable certifying agency such as DONACAPPA, and the like, and she respects you, your wishes and follows a scope of practice, then you should be in pretty good hands. 

DO check her credentials and read between the lines. There are good doulas and bad doulas just like there are good doctors and bad doctors and so on. Is she passionate about supporting women in childbirth? Why did she become a doula? If there's something that doesn't feel right, trust your gut, move on and look for someone else. 

DONT be afraid to be honest and talk openly about your expectations of a doula, and what you want her to do for you. Encourage your birth partner be open and honest about the role he or she would like to talk on during your birth.

ALSO, the "interview" is actually for the doulas to get a chance to size you up to! Doulas can only take so many clients a month, and you may be competing with other women for a spot who are due around the same date as you are. While you are deciding if you want to hire her as a doula. She is wondering if you'd be a good fit as her client as well.  It's that mutual comfort that makes the best birth team unions! Happy Doula Hunting!