There are some staggering birth statistics for the United States of America; a developed country with some of the best doctors in the world and yet a rising maternal mortality. It is therefore no surprise that many women and families are returning to personalized community support systems to help them through labor and delivery. One specific labor support person is the birth doula.
“Doula” is an ancient Greek title that has come to mean “sympathetic and knowledgeable labor companions who typically provide some form of prenatal preparation and stay at your side once labor begins until your baby is born” (Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth). These labor support professionals are trained and experienced in late pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postpartum period to assist growing families. In general, doulas are a source for informational, emotional, and physical support of people who are experiencing birth. But what does that mean?
Informational Support: Doulas use their training and experience to provide families with the
assistance they need to work toward the birth experience they desire.
Emotional Support: Doulas are taught about numerous paths of labor progression and birth
outcomes to prepare and care for mothers throughout their birth journey, including the six weeks after birth.
Physical Support: Doulas provide simple but effective measures that enhance the care and
relaxation of the mother by mitigating pain and relieving concerns. In knowing what a doula does, a mother or family can then frame how they interview potential doulas for their own personal needs and desires for birth. There are multitudes of books and other resources that provide lists for interviewing doulas; but the best list for you is going to be the one that you design. So what should you notice and ask about when shopping for doulas and their services?
Experience and Training: Not all certifying bodies are created equal, and not all doulas go
through formal training. For certified labor support professionals, it is important to investigate
their certifying organization’s requirements; such as if it requires in-person training, a reading or writing component, qualifying births, a requirement for re-certification and/or an on-going training expectation.
Chemistry and Charisma: It’s important to notice how you feel and react during the interview.
You’re looking for the right person who is going to see you when you feel your weakest and
they’ll be the one reminding you that you’re strong.
Offered Services and Negotiation: In looking over their service package, note what is important to you and see if it is reflected in the services. Not all doulas are willing to change what they offer and while they may still be the right one for you, it is important to determine what matters most to you and have those needs met.
Including Your Support Team: Interviewing a doula is about growing your birth support team.
Be sure to ask them about their willingness and ability to work with your team’s size and the
people who are on it.
Interventions: Trained doulas are taught how to support various types of births, but there are
those who are unwilling to assist some labor and delivery options. Be sure to ask doulas if they
have drawn any lines and think critically about if your possible needs will be across those lines.
There are so many ways to pick the right doula for your family and birth. It is important to
remember that you are the one making this choice, so you are going to be the best person to do the research and formulate the questions as you meet with your potential doula.
I wish you the best as you find the doulas right for you!
Michelle is a labor and delivery doula specializing in relaxation currently serving service
members and their families overseas. She uses her background in energy and yoga therapies to enhance the support for and within families. You can connect with her by email at
EnergeticsByMichelle@gmail.com or on Facebook @EnergeticsByMichelle.