I’m so excited for this one. I love helping families find doulas that fit their vibe.
Step 1: Making a List
You can use google or DoulaMatch.net to build a short list of doulas in your price range who are available for your due date. You can also filter experience by either years of practice or # of births attended on DoulaMatch.
Get a vision in your head of what you want in your doula... what's the vibe you want from them? Do you want someone older than you, like a warm grandma-type? Do you want someone around your age that feels more like a sisterly presence? Peasant skirts and beads around their neck or jeans and a Star Wars t-shirt? Religious? Do you want a doula who swears? Someone who is understands sarcasm? You will be spending one of the most important days of your life with this person, so get really specific if you need to... do you want a vegan doula? Someone who's politics align with yours? Vaccination status?
Once you have that vision, pop over to the websites of the doulas on your list and see which ones initially feel like they will fit that vibe.
Next, you can slim your list down before the interview by requesting their vaccination status (if they decline to disclose, assume they are unvaccinated).
Step 2: Setting the Interviews
Decide how you want to communicate… doulas often have online schedulers which make it easy for the tech savvy generation. Others require phone calls. Be prepared for some of us to just flat out forget to respond to emails or inquiries. If you don’t get a reply and it was someone near the top of your list, try again. As a general rule, we keep odd hours and are really good at the heart work, but not always fantastic at the admin side. If having someone who is REALLY good at the admin stuff matters, this will also filter your list for you! It filters ours for sure… if we were at long birth and don’t promptly reply to an inquiry and someone gets crabby, we likely don’t want to work with them anyways. The same goes for people who get crabby when we reschedule meetings at the last minute for births. You’re hiring a doula… you gotta be flexible. Your turn at the top of our priority list will come!!
If you schedule 3-4 interviews, you’ll likely find your doula.
Step 3: The actual interview... what to ask?
A really experienced doula will break the ice at the beginning of the meeting. We want it to be fun… the conversation should flow and it’s up to the doula to make sure we steer it towards covering all of the information we think you need to know about us and our services.
You can scour the internet for lists of questions to ask doulas but I find those to be really basic and they don't usually give us a good opportunity to help you understand who we are and what we do... so with that in mind, I have a few "vibe checks" and "red flags" to keep your finger on the pulse of.
1. Vibe check: TRUST. YOUR. GUT.
This is the most important. Do you like this person? If you don't click with them, or your partner doesn't click with them, you don't want them at your birth. Even if they come highly recommended by your care provider, have a list of trainings the size of my leg or have attended 500 births. If you don't mesh with their personality, they will drive you bananas while you are in labor. A doula with 15 births under their belt who just completed training 10 months ago and isn't certified yet... but makes you feel at ease and comfortable is likely a better fit.
2. Will they support the birthing preferences you have?
This is an easy one... or it should be. A doula's job is to make sure you have all of the necessary information and then support all birthing choices made after that information is given. Make sure they support the big choices that are important to you... what are your plans for pain medication during labor? Where are your feelings about cesarean birth, like are you hoping to avoid it at nearly all costs or are you not super adverse and maybe even considering scheduling one? Take this opportunity to check in about your postpartum and parenting choices as well. Are you planning to take or increase medications for mental health postpartum? Do you plan to breastfeed or are you choosing formula and bottles? Are you planning to circumcise a baby boy? Make sure you disclose this as a filtering tool as well... you don't want to be working with a doula who will judge your choices and there are definitely some weirdos out there who don't work with people who make choices they disagree with.
3. What led them to doula work?
We love this question. For a lot of doulas, this work called to us after a birth of our own that either went really well or really not well. Keep an eye on this answer while looking for a unique red flag... a doula with their own birth trauma left to unpack might not be ready to be working quite yet. If their answer involves them making sweeping statements about how they believe birth should be natural, I would be wary of how they will be triggered by choices you make in your labor and that might affect the type of support you get from them. Doulas who "only attend homebirths" are also a red flag in my opinion. What happens if a client who chooses a homebirth needs to transfer to the hospital for the birth? Does that doula go? Most of these doulas that choose to limit their practice in this way do it out of a general distrust and fear of the hospital system and I worry how that would affect their care of a client who transfers. The last thing a transferring birthing person needs is to have a doula that they are concerned about "failing" in front of.
4. Training and Certification
Eh. This one is not my favorite question. Certification looks shiny and a lot of us do like having an organization to call "home". As a trainer for one of those organizations, I have Big Feelings about what makes a training and certifying body "good". The trainings themselves are anywhere from 12-72 hours and certification requirements vary massively between organizations. Most organizations require that the doula attend 3-5 births and document them, as well as read a pile of books and report on them before granting certification. The real meat behind this question (to me) is "how well do you know this work?" and that question really is answered by their actual hands-on experience. How many births have they attended or how long have they worked in this field? Do they have EXTRA trainings that show their dedication to continuing their education? I suggest you get creative and ask them about the supplemental trainings they've taken recently. Things like lactation trainings, trainings in perinatal mood disorders, Spinning Babies positioning training, trainings in Grief and Loss, professional conferences, business trainings. There are a lot of trainings out there and doulas who are serious about this as a career will find them.
The harsh reality about doula certification is that at it's roots, it was white women gatekeeping this profession and putting it behind a paywall. Most organizations require hefty annual membership dues and recertification fees. So if the doula at the top of your list has 15 years of experience, 200 births attended and was once certified but opted not to keep it, don't automatically count them out. Ask them why they opted not to re-certify.
Quick red flags:
What's your philosophy about childbirth? Instead, ask them what they feel their philosophy about doula work is. Their philosophy about childbirth does not matter. They should be ready to adopt YOUR philosophy and help you use your voice to get what you need. Their belief about their role does matter though... they should not tell you that they are your advocate because they can't be. Doulas do not advocate for birthing people, we help you know when you can advocate for yourself and we make sure you have the space in which to use your voice to get your message across.
Tl;dr: Here's what TO ask: