If you read our post: Should I Hire a Birth Doula? you’re probably convinced that every mama-to-be deserves to have a doula by her side during the momentous occasion of labor and delivery. Your next question might be, ‘How do I find a birth doula?’ I recently asked both of the aforementioned questions, and as I type this, my 3-month old baby sleeps on my chest, having entered the world via a natural childbirth that I thought I wasn’t capable of, but that my amazing doula and supportive husband helped me achieve. Read on to learn tips on finding the right doula for you!
It’s worth repeating: DONA International cites that numerous clinical studies have proven when a doula is present to support and assist the mother at her baby’s birth, the following positive findings are a result:
- shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction
- reduces the requests for pain medication and epidurals, as well as the incidence of cesareans
And according to the American Pregnancy Association: “Other studies have shown that having a doula as part of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and the request for an epidural by 60%.”
Here are some tips on how to find a birth doula:
1. Use Word of Mouth & the Internet to Find a Doula
One of the best ways to find a doula is to ask friends and acquaintances with children if they would recommend the doula who assisted them — or whether they know of any good doulas even if they didn’t hire one for their own birth. Also, ask your doctor or midwife if they may suggest any doulas or doula services they have previously worked with. The web is another great resource. Most cities have sites geared toward moms-to-be and moms, which feature forums wherein people may pose questions and garner responses. Sometimes simply Google-ing a doula’s name or the name of a service will result in enough information to guide you in one direction or another. An example of one such mother-centric site is urbanMamas, which has helped me many times. You can also go directly to DONA International to get a list of doulas in your area. But bear in mind, that many great and qualified doulas may not be certified with DONA, so they won’t appear on their list.
2. Write a Birth Plan
You’ll want to write a birth plan so you know exactly what kind of support you want and require from a doula. Whether you’re planning on getting an epidural at the start of your labor, or if you’re aiming for natural childbirth, your hopes for delivery day play a huge role in deciding on the best doula for you. Some doulas specialize in assisting mothers through natural childbirth, but you want to find someone who will support you no matter what avenue you choose. It’s the doula’s role to be there to help you. A doula should not have her own agenda or judgment with regard to your birthing process.
3. Interview Doulas via Phone and Meet Several Top Candidates in Person
Have as many phone conversations as you’d like with doulas so you may get a feel for the rapport you would have with the woman who will be there at one of the most important days of your life. Ask questions that are important to you. How many births has she attended? Does she have children? For me, it was important that my doula had children of her own and knew what it felt like to give birth. In the most arduous part of my labor, I remember squeezing my doula’s hand and hearing her say, ‘I know, I know,’ in total empathy and understanding. It comforted me to know that she knew exactly how I felt and had given birth to two babies herself — both over nine pounds!
You’ll also want to ask about the coping techniques a doula uses to relieve pain. Some doulas employ massage or acupressure while others focus on breathing, yoga and movement. My doula had me walking stairs during most of my labor to get my baby to descend — which was great for me, but certainly wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Most importantly, what kind of personality are you looking for in a doula? Nurturing and kind? Strong and matter of fact? You really need to jive with your doula on an emotional level because childbirth is an emotional roller coaster! Find someone you are very comfortable being yourself with — someone you can tell what you need without hesitation.
Once you interview several doulas by phone, meet with your top three, or more, choices. You’ll most likely know upon meeting her in person whether a certain doula is the right match for you.
4. The Fine Print
Get the bottom line on how much a doula charges and ask her for references if you’d like. Ask whether she works in a team (some doulas work in teams to ensure someone will be able to attend your birth no matter what day or time you go into labor), or will be available herself whenever you go into labor. If she does work in a team, ask to meet her partner. One of the most important questions to ask a doula is for her availability in the final weeks of your pregnancy. You don’t want to find the perfect doula only to have her leaving for a Hawaiian vacation two weeks before your due date. Curious about cost? Read our previous post on a doula’s fees.