12 Questions You Need To Ask Your Birth Doula

Birth doulas, when providing continuous labour support, help immensely.  The stats speak for themselves:

• 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin*
• 28% decrease in the risk of C-section*
• 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth*
• 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
• 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
• 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience* (Hoymer, Nicodem et al. 1991)

So, now you know the stats. You have heard from many friends that their doula was “amazing”!   You know you have to have one yourself, but you’re not sure how to go about finding the right birth doula for you. 

I have compiled a list of what I believe are the key questions to ask a potential birth doula. Some questions are designed to understand what skills your doula possesses and how they will handle certain situations.  Other questions are designed to learn more about the birth doula’s personality.  You will find that many doulas are very well trained.  In my experience, I have found that finding a doula that you feel comfortable with and share common interests with tends to be the best choice.

1.Why did you choose to become a birth doula?
This seems like a fairly simple question.  Some become doulas because of their birth experience and others because they have always loved birth. Knowing a doula's motivations for birth work is very insightful!

2. Do you have a backup? How does your backup relationship work? 
This is KEY. Birth is unpredictable and your doula needs to have a backup. Getting the details on how your doula will inform their backup about you and your birth is really important because there’s always a chance that they will not be available.

3. What happens when something unexpected happens? 
What is your labour goes long, your doula has a personal emergency or something else unforeseen occurs?   Since birth is so unpredictable, one must prepare for the unexpected.  If the doula has a personal emergency when you go into labour, what happens?  What if the labour goes for days and the doula can’t even keep her eyes open?  Does she have children and how many does she have? Does she need to tend to them after a certain period? Knowing what happens in unforeseen circumstances, will better help you prepare mentally for those changes.

4. Do you have any other births or commitments around the time of my due date?  
The goal of a doula is to be there through your active birth.  Most doulas plan their commitments around their clients, but doulas do have a life outside of doula work: kids, partners, social events and/or friends. Its’s important to know if they have any planned events around your due date. If so, what happens if you go into labour? Even if they have a commitment around your due date, it does not mean you will not still have them for your labour.  Again, it is just nice to know that it is a possibility they might not be available and know the plan if they aren’t.

5. What are your thoughts on medications during labour? 
Whether you are planning on a medicated or non-medicated birth, this is an important questions to ask.  Remember, this is YOUR labour and birth.  The doula should be nonjudgmental and supportive of your decision on the topic.  If they tell you what they prefer, then keep in mind, they are not providing you unbiased support and that may flow into other decisions you make.

6. How would you describe your doula “style”? 
This question is designed to learn a little bit more about the doula’s personality.  Are they more laid back in their approach or ridged?  Are they take charge or looking for you to lead?  Do they believe in unicorns? Do they believe doctors are always right? Most importantly, does their style match what you are looking for in your doula? 

7. Do you birth doula for home births?
If you are planning a home birth, this is a must ask question. Make sure your doula is comfortable with a home birth if that is going to be your birthing method of choice.

8. What hospitals have you attended as a birth doula? 
Is your doula familiar with the hospital where you are birthing?  Do they have experience with the hospital policies and procedures?  Have they worked with your specific provider?  If the doula hasn’t, it isn’t necessarily the end-all-be-all, but it is helpful to know. 

9. What type of support do you offer before and after birth?
What all is included in their fee?  How long will they be present for labour?  Will they stay after the baby is born and for what duration? How much phone, text and email support do they provide during the pregnancy? Are they available 24/7 after 38 weeks of gestation? These are all important questions to know.  Knowing exactly how much support you can expect, is peace of mind.

10. What do you do when you’re not doula-ing?
Here’s another question aimed at seeing if personalty styles match.  Most doulas “know their stuff” when it comes to doing the job.  One of the biggest factors in determining a doula should be your comfort level with them.  This is important for the partner as well.  This doula will be with you during your pregnancy, labour and birth.  Labour and birth are very intimate and vulnerable times in a couple’s life.  Do you feel comfortable with the doula?  Do you share common interests? Could you envision yourself hanging out with this doula outside of the doula relationship?  If the answer is yes, then this doula may be a good fit for you!

11. What sets you apart from other doulas? 
This gives the doula an opportunity  to talk more about themselves.  It seems like a pretty formal question, but you will gain more insight into their personality and how they operate.

12. What other services do you offer?
What other skills can they bring to the table?  Some may offer child birth classes.  Others may be licensed massage therapists or certified in lactation.  Knowing what other services they offer may help you in your decision, even if you have to pay extra for these services.

Keep in mind that your birth doula is a great addition to your birthing team, but is not medically trained and is not qualified to make or suggest medical decisions for you or your partner.  Even if your birth doula is a nurse, their role as your birth doula is that of emotional support and comfort measures and NOT of a nurse.  All medical questions should be answered by your OBGYN or Midwife. Some birth doulas who are RN's as well find it difficult to separate these two roles. Make sure your doula understands that she's not your nurse, she's your doula. A birth doula is their to support you in your decisions you make with your care provider.  When working together a birth doula, your provider, your partner and yourself make an amazing team! 




* Statistics courtesy of US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of          
  Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23857334

*Article courtesy of nurtured foundation.

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