Things to Consider When Hiring a Doula

36 Weeks TextI did it, I hired a doula. My husband and I had casually discussed it before he deployed in the fall and after he left we decided it was probably the best thing to do while he was away. Our families are far away and there is no way to time baby’s arrival with a visit and we were still relatively new to the area and I did not have someone I felt close enough to with which to share something as intimate as birth. And to be honest as much as my husband is who I want and need to be with me emotionally during our children’s births, I could have used some additional support during the last couple hours of my last birth.

I do not think I even knew what a doula was for my first birth and I remember thinking it sounded awesome to have one for my second pregnancy, but could not rationalize the cost since I had my husband as my labor coach. He did not attend all of the courses and read all of the books I had over the years to remember all of the stages, options and variations of labor, so he was solely my emotional support. Heck, I took the courses and read the books, but by the time labor was in full force the vast majority of what I learned went straight out the window! My labors are long and exhausting, and although I wish more than anything that my husband could be here for our little princess’s birth, I am relieved to have someone who is experienced with birth and who’s job is to be the support I need.

I have delivered both of my babies at military hospitals so I do not always have consistent caregivers and even the best nurses have other patients to tend to and go home when their shift ends. The good news is the hospital where we are currently stationed has a midwife team I could request so I already feel more support from a group of women who understand many of my birthing preferences and desires. Unlike a nurse or midwife, a doula is by your side the entire time and her shift does not end until baby is in your arms. She will also stay with you for a couple of hours after the birth and follow up with you for one or two postpartum visits.

A doula, which comes from a Greek word meaning “a woman who serves”, can help remind you of your birth plan wishes, help guide you and keep you focused during labor, offer different positioning, relaxation techniques and other expertise that spouses may or may not have a clue about. They are not emotionally attached to you in the same way a spouse, family member or friend and can keep a more objective perspective while you are laboring, while still providing comfort and support.

I did a bit of research of doulas in my area with the help of an out-of-state friend who is now working on her doula certification, and ended up interviewing three. There were a number of factors I considered before making my decision and I honestly would have probably been happy with any of the lovely women, but I weighed the pros and cons of the factors listed below and went with my instinct (and a little leap of faith).

Personality. This was probably one of the most important factors when I was making my decision, because birth is a very intimate experience and I knew that I needed to choose someone that I felt comfortable with. It is hard to tell for sure how you will get along with someone from just one meeting, so you need to go with your gut a little bit on who you feel the most comfortable with. In my case I felt that Michelle really took her time to get to know me during our meet and greet and she has a very upbeat personality, which left an impression.

Cost. You can say there is no price too high to pay, but in reality money is a pretty significant factor for most families who are considering a doula. Prices vary dramatically depending on where you live, their experience and what services doulas provide in their various packages (i.e. 1 prenatal visit vs. 3). I knew that cost would not be the sole determining factor, because it was more important for me to have someone I felt I clicked with, but it did play a role when I was deciding between doulas. Keep in mind that many doulas offer military or financially need-based discounts or payment plans and others will help work with you by reducing the number of visits or good old-fashioned bartering of services to reduce costs for clients.

Experience. Although I would argue that a good personality match could easily override experience, it is definitely information you will want to get from prospective doulas. Are they fresh in the field or have they been supporting births for over a decade? More experience does not mean they will be a better doula for your personal needs, but experience does bring some wisdom, which may help as every birth is so unique and they have seen more births than the average Jane. I feel lucky that I will have both my doula and an “apprentice” to aid my in my upcoming birth. So not only will there be more hands to help, but there will be two different experience levels and personalities, which I think will be a good thing.

Location. Most people will look for doulas within a realistic distance from their home or hospital, and for good reason. Not only do you need to factor in travel time for them to arrive, but they may require a one or two hour notice to stop what they are doing and get to your home or the hospital. Some doulas have young children at home who need to be dropped off at childcare or other personal and family needs that need a little turn around time. In my case I needed to consider both the distance from my home and the hospital, since the hospital is 20 minutes from where I live, but I also wanted the option to have them come to my home since I anticipate a long labor and would prefer to do the majority of it at home.

Packages Offered. Every doula offers different options for the number of visits or other services she offers. They may offer multiple packages or have a main package and offer add-ons, many of which may be charged at an hourly rate such as additional childbirth or breastfeeding education or postpartum support. Some doulas may be flexible with the packages they offer and others may feel strongly that they stick with a certain number of visits in order to provide the best they can for their clients. My doula preferred not to reduce the number of visits when I was exploring different price options and thought that I could easily get away with fewer visits since it was my third pregnancy; after some thought I realized that she was passionate about providing the most thorough care and that she was who I needed with my husband gone.

Other Certification or Services. Doulas typically have certification and background in childbirth and lactation education, but see if your prospective doula has taken additional courses and training that may be a benefit to your birthing experience. For example, they may have certification in or experience with hypno-birthing or other methods that you would like incorporated in your birth. In my case Michelle also offers placenta encapsulation and discounts this if it is added to her doula services. This has intrigued me and since it is something she offers at an affordable price when combined with her doula services, I am taking the plunge to see what it is all about!

Have you ever hired or considered hiring a doula?

{If you enjoyed reading Things to Consider When Hiring a Doula I would be tickled pink if you left a comment. To read more about my green(er) parenting aspirations, advice and adventures be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed or get updates via email.}


By Emi Stapler. I am a cloth diaper advocate, green parenting blogger, mother of three and a military wife who enjoys sharing my motherhood adventures and advice. Follow me at The Cloth Diaper Report on Facebook, Twitter @TheCDReport , Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.

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  1. I’m in the same situation you are! Hopeully my husband will be here for her birth :) Have you heard of this website?
    Some doulas will volunteer (no having to pay for their services) if you’re husband is on deployment and won’t be able to be there for the birth! It’s free doula services, you should check it out 😀 Good luck to you on your pregnancy!! :)

    • Yes, have you had any luck contacting OSD? I sent their website contact an email back in December and never got a reply. One of the doulas I interviewed was listed as an OSD volunteer, but she only offered 4 slots a year which were already filled. I had the impression that it was up to the doulas to offer their services for free and how many slots they would offer, but I never was able to get additional information so I gave up on it. The doula I ended up choosing really went out of her way to work with me financially to make things more affordable, but it’s still a good chunk of money. I hope you have better luck than I did and that your hubby is able to make it home! My DH is not due to come home until late in the summer, so he will have a bit of an adjustment since there will be three kiddos in the house.

  2. We used a doula for my first L&D (a hospital birth) & had a great experience with her. The nurse who was assigned to me when we got to the hospital was in the midst of assisting another mom with pushing and it was almost as if they weren’t prepared for how fast my labor would go (so far mine have not been longer than 8 hrs). Our doula kept an eye on things and definitely stood our ground on our behalf – like keeping the nursing staff aware of an apparent low HR in the baby (though those not assigned to us and not otherwise occupied didn’t seem to help out…) My husband is not medically oriented & was very grateful for her support. If we’d had another hospital birth we would have used a doula again, but we have been able to use a Homebirth midwife for our 2nd & planning to do so for our 3rd – but should we need to go to the hospital our midwife is also doula trained.

  3. Regarding experience – I think the *kind* of experience a doula has is almost more important than how many births she’s done. You’d think the two would go together, but it’s not necessarily so. For example, if you’re a mama planning a scheduled cesarean birth, a doula who’s only served moms who’s had unmedicated, vaginal births may not be your first choice.

    • Excellent point! I definitely agree the importance of their specific experience or range of experiences.

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