Choosing the Right Doula
Every Doula is different. There are differences in training and philosophies of doula work that will effect how she serves you during your labor. How can you be certain the doula you hire has the skills to perform the role you want her to play?
Where Do I Begin?
To begin with, decide what you would like a doula to do during your labor. Do you want her to only make suggestions about what might be comfortable or would you like her to "talk you out of" medication if you ask? Do you want her to stay at home with you and perform vaginal exams to ensure you do not go to the hospital too soon, or do you just want her there to answer questions? Use the Doula Styles Tool to help you determine what type of doula will work well for you. There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but once you know what you want there will be right and wrong doulas for you.
Start Contacting Doulas
Once you know what you want from a doula, start contacting the doulas in your area. The Natural Childbirth Directory may list some doulas in your area. Be sure to ask lots of questions about what the doula does and what her philosophy of birth is. Find out what training she has, and then get some information about the group she trained with. Doulas who certify with national organizations such as DONA, ALACE, ICEA or CAPPA are required to follow a specific code of conduct and scope of practice in their work. These documents are available online for you to review and determine if those are the duties you wish your doula to perform.
Do not be shy about asking for references. Most doulas will be happy to share the names of two or three happy families, and the families can give you a first hand account of how the doula operates. Rate her doula style using the Doula Styles Tool to determine if she is a good match for your situation.
It is also a good idea to meet the doula in person. This will give you the opportunity to see how physically comfortable you are with her. If possible, have her meet your partner or other friends and family who will be with you in labor to see if there will be any personality conflicts.
Should I Get My Doctors "OK"
I am sometimes asked if it is important to have a doula who has worked successfully with or is recommended by your doctor or midwife. The answer to this is yes, and no. If your chosen caregiver recommends a particular doula, it is probably because they have worked together well in the past and have similar philosophies of care. However, not having worked with a caregiver in the past should not exclude a doula from your list because you cannot make judgments based on the inexperience.
One thing to be wary of is a caregiver who has an overall distrust of doulas without being able to explain why from personal experience. Doulas are still relatively new in some parts of the country, and not all caregivers have had the opportunity to work with one. As with anything else that is "new," the popularity of doulas has come with an abundance of myths and imaginary doulas whose "stories" everyone knows, but no one actually experienced. If you find that your chosen caregiver is nervous about doulas, you may want to interview other caregivers in your area to see if someone else has a more positive attitude.