How to Hire a Doula

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If you are pregnant and reading this right now, you've probably heard about a doula before, and have some understanding of what doulas do. You may have the sense that having a doula at your birth will be beneficial, but you aren't exactly sure how to go about hiring a doula. That's what I'm here to help you with today.

A note before you begin

I believe that one of the most important things in hiring a doula is how you (and your partner) feel around your doula. No one else may be able to tell you exactly what you need in a doula, but for sure, if you aren't comfortable with the person you ask to join you and your partner (or birth companions) during your labor, things are likely not going to go well. As you go through the process of researching, interviewing, and choosing a doula, pay close attention to your intuition, as well as that of your partner. How are you responding to the information you are gathering on each doula? How do you feel around each doula? This internal intel is very important to the whole process!

Gather some options

Your first step is getting a list of potential doulas together. Ask your friends, yoga teacher, massage therapist, chiropractor, maternity care provider, or google for recommendations in your area. Consult Doula Match to find doulas in your area who are available for your due date. Check out local message boards or facebook groups. You are looking for recommendations from people that you trust, as well as listings or websites that speak to you. You will likely end up with a list of some independently practicing doulas, as well as one or more doula agencies. The next step is to choose who you want to meet with.

Narrow down your choices & reach out

There are a few ways to narrow down your choices. The most common factors are price, experience and additional training, paired with your gut instincts.

Many doulas will have their current fees listed on their website. It may be difficult to determine the going rate for doulas in your area, though. A good place to start is by looking at the websites or online listings you can find to get a sense of the range. Then think about your own finances and determine a budget for yourself. Keep in mind that many doulas, myself included, break their fee up into a series of payments spread out over time. There are lots of posts out there to help you understand what all goes into a doula's fee. I do believe that living wages for doulas are important. But I also know that the reality is that some families will have to make their doula decision with price as a big factor.

You can also help narrow down your choices by thinking about what level of experience you'd like your doula to have, or about other services you may want from your doula. Do you want a doula who is super familiar with your birth location, or are you comfortable with someone who is used to going to new hospitals frequently? Is it important to you that your doula has seen tons of births, or are you just as pleased to be working with a doula with fresh excitement for the profession? Does it appeal to you to work with a doula who is a childbirth educator, a lactation professional, or a massage therapist?

Once you've narrowed down your list, reach out to a few of the doulas you feel best about. You can email or call the doulas you want to meet, or maybe they have a form or interview scheduling link available on their website. It's a good idea to share your contact information, when you are expecting your baby to come, where you are planning to give birth, and who your care provider is. 

Ideally you would be able to arrange to meet with 1-3 doulas, to give you some basis of comparison. Make note of how the doulas respond to your messages or phone calls, and if their style of communication meshes well with yours. Many doulas will hold interviews at a public location such as a coffee shop. Some doulas may also hold interviews at an office, if they have one. 

Prepare for your interviews

Before you meet with each of the doulas in person, consider what you are looking for in doula support. Talk to your partner or other loved ones you plan to have present at your birth about what you envision for your birth experience. Consider if there are any special situations or needs that you want to discuss with the doulas you interview. Think back through the things you prioritized to help you narrow down your list of potential doulas. Maybe some of that information is worth discussing in person as well.

And come prepared with a list of questions you want to ask your doula! Some questions you might want to ask include:

  1. When will you join us in labor?
  2. What happens if you have two clients in labor at the same time?
  3. Do you work with a back-up doula? Will we have an opportunity to meet with your back-up doula?
  4. Do you offer any packages or additional services?
  5. How do you accept payments? What are your refund policies?
  6. How long do you stay after the baby is born?
  7. Does your fee change if my birth is very long? Very short?

Meet the doulas

The next step is to meet with a few doulas so you can get a sense of whether or not they would be a good fit for you and your birth team. Some people go into this meeting with a strong idea of their birth plan or preferences; other people are really relying on working with their doula to help them figure these things out. No matter what your situation, the important things to consider are how you feel in the doula's presence, how your partner responds to the doula, and how satisfied you feel with any questions you ask the doula. Keep in mind that these consultations are generally meant to be brief (under an hour), with the focus on what you can expect from working with this doula, plus an exploration of what your needs and expectations are. The doula should be able to answer your questions about experience, philosophy, etc, but she or he may not be able to answer in-depth questions regarding specific procedures, doctors, etc. (In fact, if you find that you are wanting to talk to some doulas to get a lot of specific information, you may want to consider paying for a full-fledged birth consultation instead!)

Choosing your doula

After your interviews, talk with your partner or birth companions. How did you each feel around that doula? Were you each comfortable communicating? Did any one doula clearly stand out as being more well-matched for you? Now is a great time to start listening to your intuition if you haven't been doing so already! Whoever you choose will likely become a big part of your birth story and experience, and ideally their presence will enhance your partnership in pregnancy, labor, and beyond. If your gut is giving you some clear intel, listen to it!

When you have decided on which doula you would like to hire, get in touch ASAP. Many doulas only work with a few clients per month - the most I've ever heard of is 6 in a month, but 1-3 is more common. You don't want to wait so long that your dream doula is all booked up! Once you've confirmed that this doula is still available, you will probably need to sign the contract and pay the deposit to formally hire your doula. Consider also letting the doulas you are not choosing know that you have chosen someone else, so that they have more clarity about their availability with other potential clients. I know this may seem awkward, but please remember that this is part of the job of a doula! Some people will hire us and some won't; mostly we all want each client to be matched with a doula that is a good fit for them, and we know that no one doula is right for everyone.

A note on timing

In general, it's never too late to hire a doula (although the longer you wait, the more likely it is that your ideal doula will be all booked up!) and it's also almost never too early. I encourage you to start looking for a doula when you know you want one - the earlier you hire your doula, the more value you will get in terms of referrals, resources, and information. My doula package includes prenatal visits at around 32 weeks and 36 weeks, but when I am hired earlier in the pregnancy, you have that much more time to send me questions and bounce ideas around as you choose a childbirth education class, make your birth plan, etc. 

I hope this helped you make sense of how to go about hiring a doula! If you are pregnant in the Tulsa area and interested in seeing if I might be a good match for your birth, I'd love to meet with you. I work with families in Tulsa, Jenks, Broken Arrow, Glenpool, Owasso, and Bixby. Contact me to schedule your free, no-obligation interview, and we'll take it from there.

Or do you know someone who is pregnant and anxious about labor and delivery? Share this post to help your friend choose a doula that is a good match.

This post was updated to reflect more accurate information about my current service packages on April 26, 2017.