Choosing a Doula

Photo courtesy of Doula UK

Finding the right doula may be one of the most important ‘things to do’ on your journey from pregnancy into parenthood

By Rebecca Wright



So, how to go about choosing a doula? It doesn’t have to be difficult – just speak from the heart. If the doula is meeting is right for you, you will feel a connection and the conversation will flow.


The questions here are focused on birth doulas, but could easily be adapted for postnatal doulas. Remember that all doulas are different – who they are, what they offer, and how they work. There is no one right doula for everyone – what’s important is finding the right doula for you.


Let’s get started.


 The best questions are likely to be those that come from you spontaneously. What are your reasons for wanting a doula? Are there particular challenges you are facing? Talking about your own situation and asking open-ended questions around these circumstances (for example, ‘How do you feel about home birth?’ or ‘How do you feel about epidurals?’ or ‘What do you see as the dad’s role at birth?’) will give you a good idea of how well your doula will fit with your preferences and plans. Or maybe your consultation is less question and answer, and more discussion of what’s happening with you.
Speak with more than one doula, and ideally with at least three, even if just on the telephone. Even if you end up choosing the first doula you meet, having spoken with others will give you clarity about why she is right for you – or you might be surprised to find that your first choice ends up being different from your ultimate one.
Ask about what services your prospective doula offers and how much it costs. Does she have a contract? What’s in the contract? What happens if something unexpected happens? Does your prospective doula work with a back up doula in case of unforeseen cirumstances?
Ask about your prospective doula’s professional motivations and experience – what inspired her to become a doula? Has she had any formal training? Could she tell you about it? What kind of women / families / births / situations has she worked with?
Ask some challenging questions – for example, has she ever experienced hostility while supporting a birth? How did she respond? (If she hasn’t experienced this, you could ask what would she do.) What is the most difficult situation she has faced in her work as a doula? What happened? Is there anything she now does differently as a result of that experience? Or would do differently if presented with the same situation again?
What are your prospective doula’s own experiences of birth and early parenthood? Her answers will give you some insight as to how good a match she is for you. Has she experienced challenges? How did she cope with them? It’s not necessary that her experiences be identical to those you are hoping for, but these experiences and how she talks about them can be quite revealing and give you a deeper sense of who she is.
Notice, when you talk about yourself, how does she respond? Does she listen in a way that feels supportive to you?
The most experienced doula may or may not be the best doula for you. All doulas bring their own set of life experiences to their work, so there are doulas who may not have attended many births who bring a wealth experience and resources to their clients. This is not to discount the value of experience, however. Experience transforms each of us, and is a part of the life-long journey of a doula developing her practice.  It can be an element of your decision-making process, but must be taken as part of the whole picture.


Your choice is likely to come from a combination of intellectual choice and instinctive feeling. The two most important aspects are that you feel comfortable with your doula, and that she listens to you and responds in ways that feel appropriate to you. If you’ve met more than one doula that you really like, go with your instinct and trust that you’ve chosen the best doula for you.

Photo courtesy of Doula UK is the largest network of doulas in the UK and has an access fund to enable women to have the support of a doula even if they wouldn't normally be able to afford it. 




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