You’re pregnant – congratulations! Whether it’s your first baby or you’re adding a brother or sister to the family, having a safe, healthy and positive labor experience is what every family wants.
One option for many women and their partners is to include a doula as part of their care team.
A doula is a trained, non-medical, professional who nurtures, supports and offers guidance for families throughout labor and delivery, and after the birth. Doulas offer a wide range of services, including help with breastfeeding as well as postpartum care.
Studies show a doula’s continuous labor support benefits mom and baby in many ways. It can often mean:
• A more satisfying birth experience
• Less need for pain medications
• Less likelihood of needing a cesarean delivery
• Shorter labor
Finding the right person to be part of one of the most important events of your life may feel overwhelming. So, where do you start and how should you choose? Here are six tips to guide you in your search.
Start looking early in your pregnancy
It’s good to begin the process of finding a doula at your fourth to fifth month of pregnancy. Finding someone who’s the right fit may take more time than you think. Doulas work on-call, so they have a limit on how many clients they can serve at one time. Choosing a doula early in your pregnancy will give you time to get to know each other and get comfortable with your birth plan.
Talk to other families
As with most things, word-of-mouth referrals are gold. Talking with friends who have used a doula about their experience can help you start and even narrow your search. Technology – Facebook groups, a Google search for other online groups and forums – can connect you with other moms in your area. Keep in mind that everyone’s experience can be different. A good match for someone else may not be a good match for you, and vice-versa.
Talk with the provider who’s caring for you during your pregnancy
You’ll need to let your doctor or midwife know you’re planning on having a doula as part of your labor and delivery team. And if your provider has worked with a doula in the past, they may be able to offer a recommendation. The hospital’s lactation consultants and childbirth educators are also good resources.
Check with doula certification programs
Most doulas will have completed a certification program and are continually participating in education to increase their knowledge. These programs offer national, and even global, online directories of certified doulas that you can search by location. Some well-known programs include:
• Birthing From Within
• Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA)
• DONA International
• International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)
Interview potential doulas
Spending face-to-face time with the person who will be part of your baby’s birth is a must. You not only want to gather important information about them and their background, but you also need to get a feel for whether your personalities are a good fit.
Prepare for the interview by thinking about why you want a doula and what you them to do for you.
Spend time on the doulas’ websites. DONA International recommends asking potential doulas about:
• Certification status
• Services offered
Trust your gut
When you choose someone to provide any service, there’s no doubt experience and technical skills are must-haves. But soft skills, such as communication, empathy and teamwork, come into play too. Pay attention to how you connect with and feel when you’re with them. No one knows you and what you need better than you do. Listen to and follow your instincts.