This post is part of our ongoing Five Questions With series, in which we interview a pregnancy health and wellness expert on their particular area of focus. Is there an individual or topic you’d like to see featured in “Five Questions With”? Send us an e-mail.
Normally in our Five Questions With series, we ask the questions. But in our interview with Michele Nizza, an experienced doula (birth coach), she flipped our concept on it’s head and instead suggested five questions that a woman should ask her prospective doula. Michele has been present at the births of over 100 babies and is passionate about supporting women and their partners through the birthing process, and we’re honored to share her advice on choosing a doula with you. For more information on Michele, visit her website.
In Michelle’s Words: The Role of a Doula
Many women choose to hire a doula, or birth coach, to support them throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. The role of a doula is to know and honor your desires as the mother and to advocate for you throughout the process. She is there for you and specifically supports you throughout your entire labor and delivery. Although many couples feel apprehensive about the dynamic of a third person in the labor experience, many women and their partners will say afterwards that having a doula was a key part of having a peaceful, empowering birth experience.
Choosing Your Doula
If you’ve already decided that you would like to hire a doula for your labor, you may be unsure on where to start with finding one. Doulas come with a variety of training and experiences. One of the best ways to start the doula interviewing process is to do a brief telephone interview or ask a few questions by email. This should get you the basic information you need to decide who to interview further. Once you’ve gotten a brief feel for each doula, you can narrow it down to few that resonate with you. From there, the next step is to conduct a longer, in person meeting with each one. When you meet with each doula, be sure to ask the same questions so that you can compare responses. Make sure to ask the questions that are most important to you and take all the time you need to get a good sense for who the doula is and how she will support you. Most importantly, when interviewing doulas, trust your instincts. You do not always need to hire the doula with the most training and the most experience, but the one who makes you feel the most comfortable.
Questions to Ask Your Prospective Doula
These five questions are the most frequent ones that I get asked by potential clients and can be a jumping off point for you as you search for your doula:
- What are your fees? Fees are set by each doula individually and vary widely, typically based on location, cost of living, and that doula’s experience. Austin, Texas fees may not be the same as Monterey, California fees.
- Do you offer a discount or payment arrangements? If you need financial assistance, don’t assume that fact will disqualify you. Ask the doula you are interviewing if they can provide a discount, payment plan, sliding scale, or a trade for comparable services/products. Many doulas will find a way to help you. Some women choose to ask for contributions toward their doula’s fees as an alternative to gifts at the baby shower.
- What do your services include? A typical doula contract includes a minimum of two prenatal visits, your labor, birth, an hour or two postpartum, and two postpartum visits. This can vary widely with each doula, so be sure to ask exactly what is included and make sure it’s written in the contract. Some doulas offer packages that add more services for higher fees. Don’t be afraid to ask if she can tailor her services to better serve your needs.
- What is your experience? Most people do not ask me about my training. Instead, they want to know what my experience is. You can ask your potential doula how many births she has attended, and if she worked with your doctor, midwife, or the facility where you will be delivering. You can ask her about the most difficult birth she has attended. Doula experiences vary widely. Some have had babies of their own and have decided to go into birth work. Some doulas have not had babies but decided that birth work was their calling. Some doulas have been doing birth work for 20 years, but limit how many clients they take on a year. Some doulas have 10 years of experience and take on 20 clients or more a year. Hire the doula that resonates with you the most, regardless of experience (unless, of course, this is what is most important to you). We all have to start somewhere, right? Keep in mind that your labor and delivery will be an intimate, intense experience, so choose a doula that makes you feel comfortable and understood.
- What is your philosophy about birth? This one is probably the biggest factor. Regardless of experience or price, you must find a doula that has a similar view about pregnancy, labor, and birth as you. This person will be supporting you throughout a life-changing experience, and being on the same page is important so that in those intense moments of labor you know that your doula will support you and help you make the decisions that you want to make.
Michele Nizza, CD(DONA), CMT, CLEC, LCCE, FACCE of Mums the Word has attended 150+ births, each one vastly different from the last. She believes that education and information is the best way to make informed decisions. Michele strives to educate and support families in her area regardless of financial ability, status in the community, or how they choose to deliver their baby. She does her best to provide families with an educated journey from the beginning of their pregnancy through childbirth, breastfeeding, and beyond.
Are you interested in learning more about options during labor and delivery? Our Healthy Mama, Happy Baby Handbook includes exclusive videos and resources on this topics, plus everything else you need to know about having a healthy, happy pregnancy.