Choosing a doula can seem daunting. New parents already have enough decisions to make - traditional or unique name, cloth or disposable diapers, which grandmother gets to meet the baby first.... Everything that comes with having a baby is a very personal decision and one that has to be right for you and your family. Choosing the right doula is as critical as choosing the right provider and the right place of birth -- and the doula can help make the decision for the other two easier!
1. Choose a doula you click with.
Your best birth can happen with a brand new doula that has never seen birth, it could also happen with a certified doula that has seen more than 150 births - she just has to be someone you are comfortable with. Ask yourself, am I comfortable if this person sees me naked? Because at some point, she will. That being said…
2. Choose an educated doula.
A good doula does not need to be experienced but she should be well educated. Ask your doula what kind of training she has had. Your best friend may be good company in a birth but she likely doesn’t know what a Foley bulb is or what it can do for your cervix, or the best positions to help baby engage in the pelvis. A doula is there to provide her expertise and knowledge along with her emotional and physical support.
3. Choose a doula who supports every birth.
Birth is unpredictable. The most well intentioned mom can prepare for an unmedicated home birth and end up with a high intervention cesarean. Conversely, you can plan on having an induction and epidural but labor spontaneously and birth faster than an epidural can be placed. A good doula supports you no matter what the path and outcome, providing tools, research, and knowledge so that you feel well supported.
4. Choose a doula who supports your partner.
This is your partner’s birth, too! They should have a say in choosing the doula and feel comfortable with her as well. It’s important for them to participate in the doula interviews. Doulas are there to make a partner’s job easier and let them do what they do best - care for you! Doulas allow partners to take breaks, eat, go to the bathroom and call family. Doulas also know birth best, so they can navigate the labor room, explain procedures, and suggest ways for your partner to support you. This all takes the pressure off of them to do everything.
5. Choose a doula who works well with the hospital staff.
A doula works for you as part of your birth team, which also includes your doctor or midwife, your nurse, and your partner or maybe another family member or friend who will be attending your birth. This may seem like a lot of people in the room, but a good doula knows her role in the labor room and can integrate herself seamlessly into the birth. She works with the hospital staff and, while advocating for you, also has a good working relationship with your care provider.
6. Choose a doula with backup.
Life happens. Doulas miss births, whether it is because of another birth, a family emergency, or being out of town. Doulas that have solid, dependable backup mean that you will never be alone in your birth. The whole point of hiring a doula is to have one at your birth and backup doulas ensure that happens. Meet the backup doula before the birth so you have a familiar face attending your birth.
7. Choose a doula sooner rather than later.
Hiring a doula early in your pregnancy means you get more bang for your buck. You have someone at your disposal and her only job is to answer your questions, provide resources and education and just listen to you. The more you communicate with her, the more comfortable you will be with her in labor. And comfort in labor helps labor progress!
8. Choose a doula with lots of tools in her birth bag.
A little secret about doulas: we tend to only use a few core “tools.” But when we need to pull out all the stops, we can! This could mean carrying rice socks, essential oils, tennis balls, fairy lights, a rebozo, and have extra training in acupressure and spinning babies. She may most often pull out one or two things but if your birth needs a little extra help, she will be prepared.
9. Choose a doula who knows about the postpartum.
Did you know that 1 in 8 women experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, such as postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety? The time after you give birth is just as critical as your pregnancy. A doula should be able to help you transition from pregnancy to labor to birth to postpartum. She should also be able to refer you to an expert postpartum doula, should you need or want one. Postpartum doulas are important and necessary, too!
10. Choose a doula who is knowledgeable and supportive of your parenting choices.
Doulas can provide education or give direction to resources for many of the questions new parents have. Your doula should be able to aid you in bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, choosing the right pediatrician for your family, and explaining options in newborn procedures. A doula’s care doesn’t stop once the placenta is out! A good doula can be called on when your child is 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 years old!
A doula’s role in your birth is to provide physical and emotional support as well as education and advocate for you. The right doula for you will be the one who supports you and your birth with no judgment and is honored just to be part of your journey.
Live in RIchmond and want to learn more about doula support? Click here to set a time to chat.
Want to find a doula in your area? Check out Doulamatch!