Ask questions that can lead to honest and in-depth answers to actually determine whether your birth or postpartum doula is going to be a great fit for your family's needs. Christine Neely Photography
If you’re considering a doula in your birthing process, by this point, you’ve probably Googled and found your way to a boatload of lists of things you should ask potential doulas in an interview.
You’ll see the typical questions like “Where did you get your training?” and “How many births have you attended?” Those should definitely be part of what you ask during that initial consult, but this is not one of those lists. These are questions that can lead to honest and in-depth answers to actually determine whether your birth or postpartum doula is going to be a great fit for your family’s needs.
What types of pregnancies and births have you experienced in your career?
Simply getting your doula’s numbers may be a moot point if you are looking for true nonjudgmental and extensive support. For instance, one doula who is revered in the community for having attended a large number of births may have worked primarily with home birthing families or perhaps tallied up a ton of births within a community doula program, where they may not have been required to give the full prenatal and postpartum doula continuity of care.
If you are planning a hospital birth and perhaps open to pain meds or need extensive emotional support, these scenarios may not have prepped your doula for your specific needs. Meanwhile, a newer doula may not have attended a great many births, but could have been privy to many different types of situations. For instance, in the first 10 births I attended, I supported women who: almost had a baby in the car, suffered a complete placental abruption, had no home, had a surprise baby while on pitocin almost before the midwife could get on her gloves, dealt with drug dependence issues, and numerous moms who were strong and capable survivors of sexual assault. Through this multitude of experience, I became much more confident in my ability to work alongside any family no matter their choices.
This is a big one! Optimally, your doula should have the appropriate training and professionalism to be able to assist you in navigating any pregnancy or birth scenario with nothing but respect and support for your choices. Even if they are things they wouldn’t personally do or agree to. For example, I’m not a fan of Boy George. If you put on some Culture Club, though, I’ll still jam to it. If you are interviewing a doula who says something along the lines of “and then we discussed all the options available to the client, taking into account not only real current evidence but also respecting the information given to them by their care providers before the family made a decision, and I also informed them once again that I am not a care provider who can dispense advice,” you’re on the right track!
I am honestly worried that this has to be a question. However, time and again, I see fellow doulas posting joyous birth announcements on their business pages before the family has announced the birth to their own friends and family! How inconsiderate is that? I’ve also witnessed doula confidentiality breaches on local forums. There was a recent request to crowdsource for general information (good so far) followed up by the date of baby’s birth and birth location (getting into a little bit of hot water) followed by the details of the hospital the baby was transferred to and the exact department baby is in (oh no) and finished off by giving away the exact whereabouts of baby’s parents at a current point in time. Now, to this doula, it appeared to be a common thing to give “extra” info to help get better results. But think about it from the perspective of, say, a scorned past lover who is easily prone to violence, who has been using Facebook to track the birth and whereabouts of a former partner. They come across this post. BAM. They know exactly where they need to go to try and gain access to this family. See the problem here? Will your doula’s contract prevent them from sharing information, photos and birth details about your family on social media websites without your written permission?
The type of answer you get may indicate what type of doula you’re going to get, whether it be a professional doula, a hobby doula who likely doesn’t charge a living wage or a Birth Avenger (as Randy Patterson of ProDoula coins quite accurately).
A professional doula may respond with something akin to “natural birth and breastfeeding are both valid choices that can sometimes be achieved by those who can or desire to engage in them. However, should a client decide to or need to birth with assistance or feed their infant in another fashion, I am more than happy to assist them in supporting these decisions with well-rounded, evidence-based information.”
A hobby doula could say “breastfeeding and natural birth are obviously the first choice as they are the healthiest and safest options for pretty much everyone. The actual rate of women who can’t breastfeed is only like, 2 percent. If you end up needing an epidural, induction or c-section because of a life threatening problem, I’ll still support you if I decide to come to the birth!”
A Birth Avenger, someone who often assumes the role of doula in order to use your birth experience to further their natural birthing or breastfeeding agenda without your permission. Families may sometimes not realize that the bargain freebie/super cheap doula they got charges such low rates because they are actually there to enforce what they see fit for pregnancy decisions. A Birth Avenger may respond to your question with “natural birth and breastfeeding are definitely possible for those who try hard enough and should always be the first choice unless you are faced with a life or death situation. Heck, if you’d like, I can just keep you out of the hospital as long as possible and maybe check your baby’s heart tones for you at no extra cost! Since mother’s milk is always best, if you really, really can’t breastfeed after trying everything, I’ll line up local anonymous breast milk donors for you. Isn’t that awesome?”
If a birth doula quickly mentions all of the “successful” natural or vaginal births they’ve attended, or brags about having very high vaginal birth rates within their clientele, this could be a sign to look elsewhere. A professional doula supports all births, whether natural, medicated or planned cesarean section without judgment or predetermined ideas on what you find acceptable. Would you feel comfortable hiring a doula if the pressure is on you to keep their natural birth “numbers” high?
Cara Del Favero is a Capital District mother of two, placenta encapsulation specialist and a birth and postpartum doula providing holistic, nonjudgmental support for all childbirth options. To contact her, visit thealbanydoula.net or call 337-6272.