What to ask a birth doula: Interview Questions
Just like your care provider, you will want to interview doulas and ask questions to be sure she is a good fit. She will be with you at some of your most vulnerable and intense moments of your life. You want to be sure that you are on the same page and that she can help you the way you want and need.
The first question to ask your potential birth doula is whether she’s available around your estimated due date. If she is, here are some other questions you may want to ask. You can speak with the doula over the phone or meet her in person, but it is important to make sure you’re compatible. Consider having your partner present at the interview. In some ways, they are going to work together more closely than you and the doula!
Why did you become a doula?
This is great “get to know you” question. Some doulas get into birth work because they want to help women avoid a traumatic birth like they had. Some doulas had a great experience giving birth and want to share their knowledge and help other women have a great experience as well. Other doulas have not yet had children of their own. However she got into birth work, her only agenda should be your agenda, whatever that may look like.
What training did you receive?
Training is so important. Some doulas have received no professional training but since there is no certification required to be called a doula in Utah, anyone can practice as one. Most basic doula trainings are done over one weekend and one can practice as a doula after their weekend training. Advanced doula trainings are much longer, more intensive, and offer shadowing experience. It may be important for you to ask their experience and training to know if you are getting an experienced doula or one who is just starting out.
How many births have you attended?
This question is more important than asking how long they have been a doula. Some doulas have been practicing for 5 years but have only attended 4 births. It is good to have an idea of your doula’s experience supporting women in pregnancy and labor. For certification, she will have attended a minimum of three births, but not all doulas choose to certify. Newer doulas tend to not charge as much as they gain experience while more experienced doulas have attended several births. You should expect to pay more for experienced doulas.
Are you certified?
Certified doulas are held to certain standards and have repercussions if they do not adhere to them. Doulas that aren’t certified do not have to adhere to any standards. Doulas can also have additional childbirth training with the Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, or HypnoBabies. It depends on what you are looking for in your birth doula. If you want a Hypno birth, you should probably look for a HypnoDoula that specializes in them.
Have you taken any breastfeeding classes specifically for doulas?
Your doula should know how to help support you on your breastfeeding journey. She should be able to help instruct you to get your first latch right after birth and know what signs to look for if more help is needed. She should be able to answer basic breastfeeding questions such as growth spurt times, local IBCLC’s (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants), how many wet diapers per day, etc. If you choose to breastfeed it is very important to have support.
Do you have a legal business in good standing with the state?
A professional doula will have a business license and pay all necessary state and city fees for their business. Why does it matter? First, to protect you, your birth experience, and them. Hiring a professional birth doula ensures that you get what you pay for – your doula, who provides you with resources, prenatal visits, is on-call for you, comes to your birth when you call her, and provides postpartum visits. There have been stories of “business owners” who have taken money and run. The professional doula’s business registration helps protect you against this. You want to be sure that the doula you choose to help support you during your pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum is a true professional and delivers as promised. Supporting a small business run by true professionals who are following all business rules and applicable laws is best for everyone.
Do you have a backup doula that I can meet ahead of time? How did you choose your backup doula?
This is very important. What if you go into labor and your beloved doula is already at another birth? What if your doula has fallen ill when you go into labor? What if your doula has an emergency? Who will she call to come be with you? They should have a backup in place for you so you can feel comfortable and be supported no matter what. You should be able to meet their backup before the birth to make sure that you are comfortable with them and they should provide you with their back-up doula’s information should your doula not be available. The backup doula should be on-call with your doula and stay close by should they be needed.
Do you have references I can contact or reviews I can read?
Don’t just take her word for it that she’s a good doula. Ask to speak to some of her past clients, trainers and people she’s worked with. Some websites (like DoulaMatch.net, Facebook, and Google) post public reviews for you to read, which can be really helpful. As with any job interview, references are an important part of getting hired.
How many clients do you have around my due date?
It is normal to have up to four clients in any given month. If that makes you nervous, choose a doula who only takes two clients a month. Or maybe you can be her only one! Some doulas working in partnerships take more than four clients in a month. If it is important for you to have more individualized care, consider a doula who takes fewer clients in a month.
Do you have another job outside of doula work?
Some doulas can’t afford to have birth work as their career because it really doesn’t pay all that much. Other doulas are more fortunate and can pour their heart, soul, and time into doula work. For some women, it is important to not have to worry that their doula may have to leave for work when they are in labor or can’t get the time off work for their birth. Other women don’t mind as long as they have a good backup in place. If it is important for you to have that doula at your birth, barring emergencies, go for a doula who doesn’t have another job or whose job is very flexible.
What do you see as your strength?
Doulas can be anything you need them to be. Do you need encouragement, a high-energy cheerleader, a quiet relaxed massage, someone to hold the space, a comedian, a shoulder to cry on, or information on your options during delivery? A doula can be anything and everything, but they usually have a natural style and energy. Ask her what she feels like makes her a great doula.
Do you have a time limit for long births?
Some doulas charge more if your labor goes over a certain amount of time. Other doulas have a flat rate regardless of how long your labor is. This is an important question to ask so you know what to expect.
Special Circumstance Questions
Personality match is a must, yes, but be sure to also consider the level of knowledge you want or need your doula to have. Some women have pre-existing conditions that labels them as high-risk during pregnancy. Other women are prone to developing conditions during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, or have previously had an unusual circumstance that may happen again in future pregnancies. Your doula’s knowledge is just as important as their training and experience. If you fall into any of these categories, or you want to make sure you have a doula that has the knowledge and experience necessary to be able to help support you if these situations arise, it may be important to ask the following questions:
Do you have experience with helping breech babies turn? Do you know my options if baby won’t turn?
Most doulas are familiar with the basic ways to turn a breech baby, but are they familiar with or do they have experience with the more advanced ways? If your doula only mentions Spinningbabies.com, they probably don’t have a lot of experience working with breech babies. Some of the other methods to turn a breech baby that a doula who has experience with breech babies may mention are: rebozo sifting, moxibustion, acupressure, fear release, hypnosis, reflexology, Webster Technique, hot and cold therapy, music therapy, light therapy, Pulsatilla, etc. She should also have knowledge of doctors that can help deliver breech babies vaginally or which doctors have high ECV (External Cephalic Version) rates.
Do you have experience working with and specialized training in women with high-risk pregnancies? Specifically (your risk factor)?
Not all doulas are created equal. Some doulas have taken specialized trainings and have greater knowledge of high-risk pregnancies and know how to support your risk factors during your pregnancy and labor.
Do you have experience working with and specialized training in VBACs (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean) or VBAMCs (Vaginal Birth After Multiple Cesareans)?
There can be a lot of fear, doubt, and possibly even some trauma to work through if you are planning a VBAC. Special training in VBACs is very important for your doula to have if you are attempting a TOLAC (Trial of Labor after Cesarean). Question her whether or not she has taken specialized training and has experience in successful VBACs or VBAMCs so that you can receive the support necessary for your ideal birth.
When you find your perfect match, please be sure to thank the other doulas you have interviewed and let them know that you have hired someone else. They have taken time out of their busy schedules to come and meet with you. Be courteous.