Consider Hiring a Doula for Your Birth

A doula helps a family in labor.
Photo © Sara Corman

The use of a doula, a professional person trained to support a laboring woman with information and physical support, as an addition to the birth team is something that has gained popularity over the last 20-25 years. With the increase of doula attendance at births, the amount of research done on doula assisted births has gone up.

Using doulas has been shown to have some very positive effects on labor and birth outcomes.

Some of these include:

  • shorter labors
  • more spontaneous vaginal births
  • fewer mothers having a dissatisfying experience

Some recent studies have also talked about how doulas might also help lower the risk of preterm birth in some populations of mothers. The key to having a positive experience is finding a doula that is the perfect match for you. This comes by interviewing and hiring the right doula. A doula might have a lot of experience or education, and still not be a good match for you or your partner. There is a sweet spot of the hard and soft skills that you are looking for to find the right doula for your birth.

Interviewing a Doula

Once you have found some doulas you will want to narrow the list, if you have enough to have multiple options. Things that might make it easier to narrow your list might include:

  • the doula's availability 
  • previous experience working with your provider 
  • previous experience with your place of birth
  • personal recommendation

You may also find that you are looking at a list of doulas, with not much else to go on when it comes to preferences. Kaela Kennedy was looking for a doula, "I set about googling and found, did a quick search there, and found a lengthy list available in my area.

Given our families finances, I began looking through the list for those who fit our budget and one particular listing caught my eye. I proceeded to her Facebook page and from there made contact with her. Interviewing her was fairly simple as I already knew what I was looking for."

It is important that your partner also be there when interviewing doulas. They will need to have a say in the matter as well. "Interviewing our doula is what really sold my husband, he says. He appreciated our doula's knowledge of birth, both of the physical process and emotional elements," says Victoria Wilson.

When you are talking, ask her questions, even the tough ones. Doulas don't have all the answers, they just work hard to find out. "Our doula thoroughly answered our interview questions, and was honest when she didn't have an immediate answer which I appreciated; she conducted our prenatal appointments with the same candor," remembers Wilson.

Prenatal Visits with a Doula

When I say prenatal visits, you probably think of what you do with your midwife or doctor, but a doula prenatal is different. The goal is to get to know each other. You will discuss many topics including what you want for your birth, how you and your partner define the role of a doula, how she can best help you in pregnancy, labor, and beyond.

Kennedy recalls, "During our first meeting we formulated a birth plan and while again I had done a large amount of research and had a good foundation of birth knowledge, she brought forth some things I hadn't considered." This formulation of preferences for your birth is a great communication tool to use with the whole birth team.

The prenatal time will also be a time to talk about things you may not have given a lot of thought to, like the immediate postpartum. "My doula was able to help me work through some finer points of postpartum that I hadn't considered," says Amanda West.

Labor and Birth with a Doula

Once you are in labor, you should let your doula know.

She will join you at the time that you all have decided upon in the prenatal meetings. 

"I had a doula at the births of my second and third babies.  During my second birth -she took my 2 year old daughter from my husband between pushing contractions and let him be the one holding me. I had never felt closer to my husband and I'm so glad she thought to do that for us. I can honestly say that she was my rock, especially with number three. You'd think having my third unmedicated birth that I would be prepared and know what I was capable of- but it was truly the hardest of all three and it was the birth I doubted myself the most. But Ashley was there to reassure me and remind me of my strength. She truly feels like family to me and will always hold a special place in my heart," says Victoria Geertgens. 

Wilson also had a positive experience with her doula, "I was calmer, and so was my husband. We also felt more supported and able to enjoy the birth because of our doula's presence. I especially appreciated how she made our hospital birth feel as 'home birth' as possible. Doulas are invaluable!"

"For our first birth my husband couldn't justify the cost of a doula but, after a somewhat difficult time, he reconsidered when we prepared for the birth of our second daughter.  I know he appreciated having our own guide through labor land. Also, my husband quickly saw that the continuous support of a doula was worth every penny! (We weren't just paying someone "to hold my hand in labor" - we were hiring a cross between a coach and a wedding planner.)  The birth of our second daughter was so different than our first! Though I appreciated both experiences, the second was much calmer and less frantic." 


Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub5

Continue Reading