Hiring a Doula

I am a firm believer that doulas come in all shapes and sizes.  Some of us choose to certify, and some of us don’t.  I know some doulas who are not certified, but hold more birth knowledge and experience in their little finger than many of us do in our entire bodies. I have seen doulas who took an online certification course (with no in-person training or experience required) and tout that they are experts in their field. Believe me, not all doula certifications are created equally, and certification is not the only way to pursue this work. Some doulas prefer to gain their experience through apprenticeship and community involvement rather than going through organizations like DONA.  There is no perfect path to becoming a doula.  What makes us doulas isn’t a title, it is the heart that drives our efforts to support families and bring positive changes to our communities. 

So what do you look for in a doula?  How do you know that you are getting the quality that you expect in your experience?  Research.  Just as a business owner would look at a resume, check references, and have some email correspondence with a new recruit before an interview.  Check out their website, look at their reviews on multiple platforms (Facebook, Google, and Doula Match), look into the organizations they are associated with and ask around your local birth community to see if the doula is well recognized. 

I clicked around on my certifying organization’s website and found a few lists that might be helpful when beginning this process.  Those lists are in bold and the links to more information are cited at the end of this page. 

Wondering what you should look for when hiring a doula? Here are a few key points that parents consider.

  • Training
  • Certification status
  • Experience
  • Availability
  • Services offered
  • Conversational compatibility
  • Fees
  • General instincts about having the doula in your home or private space

Another common theme that comes up during interviews is the list of questions that we see in so many mommy-blog articles.  “10 Questions to Ask Your Doula in an Interview,” and so on… Don’t get me wrong, questions are a great tool to help you narrow down which doulas you want to meet with, but the most important purpose of an interview is connecting.  Most reputable doulas list their training, experience and philosophies on their websites.  If they don’t, or they don’t have a website, this is a great time to connect pre-interview through email.  You would be surprised at how well you can connect with someone before you meet them face-to-face, and I don’t know any doula who isn’t willing to answer questions or offer a list of references ahead of time through email correspondence. BUT, more than anything, don’t forget that the interview is allllll about connection.  It is important that you feel comfortable inviting your doula into your home and into some of the most intimate moments of your life; otherwise, things can be just plain awkward during your birth. So yes, a few prepared questions or talking points are great to bring to an interview, but remember that the interview is about connection… and a long, tedious list can be more distracting than helpful in finding the right doula for you. 

Questions to Consider After a Birth Doula Interview:

It’s a wonderful opportunity to choose a doula to be a part of your birth experience! Sometimes, you just know that a particular doula is the one for you, and sometimes you need several interviews to find just the right person (or people, some doulas work in teams). These questions might be able to be helpful as you choose a doula who is the right fit for your family.

  • How comfortable was I with the doula/s?
  • Did the doula/s communicate well with me and my family?
  • Do I feel confident that the doula/s will be able to work collaboratively with my birth team?
  • What was the doula’s level of knowledge? Did one seem more knowledgeable than another? Did I feel that my questions were answered thoroughly?
  • Do I feel comfortable having this doula (these doulas) in my home?
  • If there are unexpected situations, or if I need support early in labor, do I feel confident that this doula (these doulas) can offer what I’ll need at the time?
  • Who is the right doula to nurture and support my family through this process? Did I feel a connection?
  • What does my overall intuition say?

To recap, when hiring a doula, do your research.  Not all doulas are created equally.  Learn about them and find what drives their work before meeting them.  Understand how they gained their knowledge-base and what organizations they associate with. If you aren’t able to answer the important questions through your own research, begin a dialogue via email or text. Go into your interview looking for connection, take note of how you feel, whether or not the doula will flow well with your vision for your birth, and more than anything listen to your intuition. Because any good doula can agree with me that our goal is for you to have a beautiful birth experience, and connection plays a huge role in how well-supported you feel during your birth.  You’re likely to be in a room with your doula  for a very long time.   Feeling comfortable is key.  And if you don’t feel that magical doula connection you think you should feel, I promise we won’t have our feelings hurt — we probably know another doula who might be the perfect match for you. 

The lists included above were found on the DONA International website:

What to Look For When You Hire a Doula

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