1. Ask us where WE would want to deliver.
Doulas are placed in a unique position in the birth world. We often get to stand silent witness as different obstetricians, nurses, hospitals, and yes even midwives question (or worse, flat out ignore) a mother’s choices in the delivery room. We have seen it all, from beautifully supported births down to horror stories where the mother’s consent is violated repeatedly. Doulas have to be careful about how and what they say in regard to hospital and care-giver practices when speaking with their clients, however if your doula says she will not attend births with a specific provider or at a specific location there is probably good reason for that. The same goes if she tells you that she would deliver her own baby with a specific provider or hospital/birth center.
2. Pictures, or it didn’t happen. (Does your doula really want to see your mucous plug?)
We all know how excited you are for something to indicate you’re approaching the start of labor. It’s been a long ten (yes, it’s actually technically ten) months waiting for that first contraction to hit, marking the moment when you finally get to meet that precious little bundle. Trust me when I say your doula is just as excited as you are. We live and breathe birth and we LOVE it when our clients go into labor! However, a picture mail in the middle of the night showing what you think may or may not be your mucous plug cradled lovingly in a wad-full of T.P. is not always the best way for us to share in your enthusiasm. Certainly let your doula know if you think you passed your plug – she may even request a pic! – but consider saving the image for your pregnancy scrap book unless she asks you to send it her way.
3. There is a doula out there for every individual, and we want you to find the right one for YOU.
Take your time interviewing doulas before making your final decision. Just as you are a unique woman with specific life style choices and preferences, doulas come from all walks of life as well. You should feel a kinship with the doula that you choose – a “click”. While it is true that you do not have to even have met your doula before labor for her to positively impact your birth (studies have shown that just having a doula sit in the room with you greatly impacts birth outcomes), for you to get the best experience possible it is worth holding out until you find the perfect doula for you! As doulas, we want you to have the best birth possible and we know that means that we are not always the perfect fit with potential clients. We will not be offended if you ask us for referrals so you can interview other doulas in your area!
4. No, we won’t deliver your baby. No, not even ‘accidentally’. No, really.
Seriously. This is a big no-no. The role of your doula is to provide informational, emotional, and physical support for you during your labor and delivery process. A doula DOES NOT perform any medical tasks and is not properly trained (or prepared) to deal with emergent situations that could potentially occur during a normal birth. Yes, doulas have a great deal of knowledge and training about the birth process. And yes, we trust the body’s natural ability to have uncomplicated deliveries 99.9% of the time. However, we do not have the training or skillset to handle medical emergencies. If your doula tells you she is comfortable delivering your baby for you, please understand that she has over-stepped the bounds of her profession and is no longer acting as a ‘doula’, but as an unlicensed midwife.
5. “Student” and “In-Training” doulas have value, too.
There seems to be a popular thought out there that women can get a “steal of a deal” by hiring a student doula or doula in training for their births. So what exactly is a student doula? This is a term often used to describe an uncertified doula who is working towards certifying with a particular organization. There are many certifying organizations available for doulas to choose from, all with different requirements for certification and guidelines they expect their doulas to adhere to. It needs to be mentioned that doulas are not required to be certified. A doula who is going through her certification process may have attended zero birth prior to starting or may have been attending births for 20+ years and decided it was worth affiliating herself with an organization. Generally speaking, a student doula has completed her “hands-on” training requirement prior to seeking clients, but that is not always the case. So, what does this mean in regards to the overall “value” of your doula’s services? Experience, of course, does count and certainly has it’s value which is why most doulas who are certified and/or who have attended more births charge more. However, a student doula also has value. Consider the fact that your doula, whether she has 700 births or 2 births under her belt, is devoting her time to you for the entire length of your active labor through your immediate postpartum period (up to three hours after you deliver). For some women, this means upwards of 18hrs total of labor support. This does not include the time your doula will spend with you prior to labor, being on-call for your delivery (which means they are unable to make any other commitments or solid plans during that time-frame), or the time spent with you during any postpartum appointments. Regardless of whether a doula is certified or not, she can have a very positive impact on your delivery (as mentioned before, studies have shown the benefits of just having a doula in the room with you). Please keep all of these factors in mind before you start “bargain hunting” for doula services. Normally the fee your doula charges has been agonized over – doulas do this work from the heart and are not out there trying to rip anyone off – and she is charging what she needs to be able to stay in business.
Article written by Meagan Flaherty, owner of Beltane Birth Services