Hiring a Doula
By Jennifer Vanderlaan
You have read the studies showing women who hire doulas have fewer problems and request less pain medication than women who do not. You have spoken to your midwife about the benefits of professional labor support and understand how it fits into your birth team. Now that you are ready to hire a doula, you are probably wondering where to start.
Finding A Doula
Three or four moths before your due date, start searching the internet for directories and databases. Organizations that certify professional labor support, such as DONA, CAPPA Canada or DoulaUK generally have a referral service you can use to get local names. Web directories such as the Natural Childbirth Directory list websites of childbirth professionals. There are even websites such as Doula Network where professionals without websites can list their services.
There are probably several doulas working in your area who are not listed on the internet. Ask your midwife or childbirth educator for additional recommendations. Some hospitals keep lists of local doulas and will be happy to give you a list of names. You may also get referrals through mothers groups, La Leche League meetings and birth centers.
You should have a pretty good idea what type of support you are looking for. A short phone interview can let you know if individual doulas are a potential fit. Begin by asking if she is available for your due date and birth location. If she is, move into questions about her philosophy of birth and what she perceives her role to be during labor. Be sure to also ask her about additional services she may provide such as belly casting or private childbirth classes. Some doulas include additional services in their fee, others charge a lower fee but will provide addition services separately.
Pay special attention to the personality of the doulas you interview. How well her personality fits yours is perhaps more important than her experience. If you think she talks too much, or it takes too much work to get her to talk she is not the doula for you. If you think she laughs too much, or has no sense of humor she is not the doula for you. You must feel comfortable with her, trust her advice and feel she empowers you to accomplish your goals.
After your interviews, you should have a list of no more than three doulas you would most like to hire. Call your first choice to let her know you would like to hire her and discuss her fees. There is a wide range of fees charged by professional labor support. Those who provide more services or are located in more expensive areas generally charge more. Before you decide her fee is unreasonable consider just how much of her time you will be purchasing. You will probably have at least one prenatal and one postnatal visit in addition to the 5 to 10 hours you may need her for in labor. You are also paying to have her on-call day and night, which means you know she is arranging a month or more of her life to be available when your labor begins.
If you are unable to afford her fee, ask if she has a sliding scale and if you meet the qualifications for a lower rate. You may also ask her if she is training any doulas who may be willing to provide services at a discount. Ask if she is willing to barter for part of her fee. She may reduce her fee for referring other clients; donating used pregnancy books to her library; providing a copy of your birth video for her library or similar services. If you cannot negotiate a fee you can afford, call your second choice.
Signing a Contract
Your doula should have you sign a contract for her services. Having her responsibilities and your expectations written down helps to prevent confusion later. The contract should cover the basic information about your agreement: how much you will pay her and when; when and how to reach her in labor; and any other services you have agreed to.
Be sure you know how to reach her if you have a question, and if she prefers to be contacted for non-emergency questions in any particular way. She should give you instructions about how to borrow books and videos from her lending library. If you have scheduled prenatal or postpartum visits, the contract may also include what will be covered during those meetings.
The process of hiring a doula will take time. However, the benefits of having professional labor support make it well worth the work.
Jennifer Vanderlaan invites you to search the Natural Childbirth Directory to find doulas and other childbirth professionals in your area. She teaches families how to stay healthy during pregnancy and childbirth at http://www.birthingnaturally.net