Steps to Choosing a Doula
Start by asking your care provider if she can recommend any labor support professionals she enjoys working with. If your OB hasn't worked with a doula before, talking about why you want to hire one can help start a discussion of the type of birth you hope to have. Many care providers welcome the extra support a doula can provide. "Doulas help me give patients their best chance of having an unmedicated birth or a vaginal birth after a cesarean," says Jaqueline Worth, M.D., of Village Obstetrics in New York City, where more than half of all patients use a doula. "Like a personal trainer who pushes you to do a second set, a doula is an expert who helps push you just slightly past where you think you can go," Dr. Worth explains.
You can also search online for doulas in your area, using the "Find a Doula" search function at dona.org. Or check with local birthing class teachers, new mom friends, and even local birthing centers or midwives (even if you aren't using them for your delivery) for their recommendations. Dr. Worth notes that "[Birth can be] hard and you need someone who has been there before to help you push past the pain and keep going. My job [as a doctor] is to keep her safe--the doula's job is to keep her going."
The most important step in hiring a doula is the interview. You can invite a potential candidate to your house or meet her in a public space, but consider it your opportunity to learn as much as you can about her. Ask how many births she's attended and where she received her certification. (DONA International, Childbirth International, and BirthArts International are the common certifying organizations.) Ask her why she became a doula, how many pre- and postnatal home visits are included in the service (two or three visits is standard), and about the fee. (Less experienced doulas may charge around $400; more experienced ones can charge $1,000 or more.) Discuss medications during delivery, breastfeeding, and the type of care provider you plan to use for your birth. Most important, you should make sure that you feel comfortable with your doula, as you'll be with her through one of the most stressful--and amazing--times in your life. "I would look for a doula who is comfortable in her own skin, but not pushy with her opinions," says Cynthia Gabriel, Ph.D, author of Natural Hospital Birth and a doula who has attended 125 births. "If she is a warm person with whom you can connect, she gives you confidence that you can have a great birth, and she speaks mostly in positive ways--not strident anti-doctor ways--that is a great start."
Make the hire.
Once you and your partner agree on which doula to hire, let her know as soon as possible to secure your spot. Then schedule your prenatal visits and start enjoying the extra support that a birth doula can offer.
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