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Thinking about hiring a doula? Ask these 12 questions first

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Have you thought about having a doula— someone who provides support for you during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period? If you’re considering working with one, it’s a wise decision.

Studies show that women who have doulas during labor and delivery are less likely to have a C-section and interventions, have shorter labors, have less risk for complications, feel more positive about their baby’s birth, are more successful with breastfeeding and are less likely to have postpartum depression.
After you bring your baby home, a postpartum doula can give your family the information, know-how and support you need to make the transition into motherhood a bit easier.

As you start to look for potential doulas, you should ask some important questions to make sure she’s a good fit for your family.

1. Why did you become a doula?
One of the best ways to break the ice and see if you connect with the doula is to find out why she’s passionate about her job because it can clue you into her personality and preferences, said Barbara Heid, a DONA International-certified birth and postpartum doula.

2. Do we click?
It’s important to make sure you feel comfortable with the doula especially since she’ll be supporting you during a stressful time, noted Dr. Doni Wilson, a doula and naturopathic doctor and author of “The Stress Remedy."

3. What type of education and training do you have?
A doula who is certified by a national organization like DONA International or Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) is your best bet, since they are required to have a certain level of education and training. They also must attend a certain number of births that meet specific guidelines to qualify.

4. How many births have you attended?
Ask the doula how many births she has attended and in what setting (hospital, birth center, home). Although at least 20 births is ideal, your personal feeling may trump experience, Wilson said.

5. What is your birth philosophy and approach?
It’s important to ask the doula how she views childbirth, what she thinks about an epidural and what she can do to help you avoid a C-section— barring an emergency— to make sure you’re on the same page. You can also ask how she can help you advocate for yourself, help you release fear, and share her ways to move labor along.

“You want a doula who will support your choices no matter what happens [because] birth is unpredictable,” Heid said.

6. Are you available?
Ask the doula how many births or postpartum clients she takes on a month and if she will be available in the weeks surrounding your due date, in case you go into labor earlier or later than expected. Also, if you go into labor and your doula isn’t available, find out about her backup, how their relationship works and if you can meet her beforehand.

7. Do you know my provider?
It’s ideal if the doula has worked with your OB/GYN or midwife, but not necessary. Ask the hospital if they offer doula services or ask your provider for a referral. Either way, what matters is that the doula is a team player, Heid said.

8. When labor starts, how soon will you be with me?
Since labor can start differently for each woman, it’s important to ask the doula when she will join you. Some doulas will wait until you’re at the hospital or in active labor, and provide phone support in the meantime, while others will be with you the minute your labor starts. Also find out if you can reach her by text, phone or voicemail only.

“A doula should be available to respond to you right away and be the first person to you once labor starts,” Wilson said.

9. Do you have other training or expertise?
Some doulas are also registered nurses, childbirth educators, massage therapists, lactation consultants or certified in aromatherapy.

10. How can you help my partner?
A doula’s role is to support both you and your partner so ask specifically about ways the doula can help your partner support you during and provide reassurance for him about the birth process. If you’re hiring a postpartum doula and your family has specific needs, find out how the doula can customize her services for you.

11. What does the fee cover?
Fees vary depending on where you live, although hospital doula services may be more affordable and some new doulas may waive their fee in order to qualify for certification.
The fees typically cover one or two visits before you give birth and a follow-up either in person or on the phone. Be sure to ask about the refund policy if you delivery too quick for the doula to arrive or if you have a C-section and the doula does not attend.  

12. Do you have references?
It’s a great idea if you can talk to the doula’s past clients to find out if they had a positive experience.

Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.