Questions to Ask When Hiring a Doula
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Kelly Anderson gave expectant mothers oranges and tins cans with the lids removed from both ends.
"Now push the orange through the can," she told the women, giving them an idea of what they had in store during the birthing process.
Anderson, now retired, no longer coaches mothers-to-be in Dallas, Ore. But her exercise illustrates the service doulas, maternity nurses and other birthing professionals provide: They prepare women for what's to come and guide them through every part of the process.
But finding just the right doula can be a daunting process for some women. There are Web sites to help: One of the most prominent belongs to the Doulas of North America. The organization has a certification process to assure mothers that doulas have met the highest standards of training and education.
The site also provides a locator so women can find doulas in their areas. Another popular site for finding a doula is doulamatch.net.
However you find a doula, it's important to start by asking the right questions. Bonnie Patton, a doula in Portland, Ore., says women should first be clear about what a doula is, or, more importantly, what a doula is not.
The big thing a doula is not is a midwife. Midwives can help with the actual delivery.
"A doula does not do any medical procedures of any kind and is there for emotional, physical and spiritual support to the laboring woman and her partner," Patton says. "A doula is there to help with positions and pain-coping skills for the mother who wants to have an unmedicated birth, or is there to help the mother with anything -- even if she is having a medicated birth."
There are also postpartum doulas who come home with the mother and baby to provide additional support. That can include helping siblings deal with the new baby brother or sister. Some postpartum doulas even provide light housekeeping. It depends on the person.
Getting to know the doula starts with a consultation, which is usually free, Patton says.
"That is where you ask your questions of what kind of philosophy the doula has on birth," she says. "What is the fee and what comes with that fee? What kind of services does the doula provide, such as photos, acupressure, breastfeeding, hypno-birthing and so on?"
The Doulas of North America's Web site further suggests checking references and credentials, as well as just getting a feeling for the doula's personality.
All good advice, Patton says: "You have to be comfortable with the doula you have in with you during the birth."
if you're on a budget, you can find inexpensive or even free doula services. These are often doulas still going through the certification process or apprentice doulas. An experienced doula will probably run you between $500 and $900. That usually includes two prenatal visits and the birth -- no matter how long it takes -- as well as one postpartum visit.
"A doula may also take photographs at the birth and give them to you at the postpartum visit along with birth notes of the birth," Patton says. "A postpartum doula's fees run on an hourly wage and there may be a minimum of hours contracted -- anywhere from $20 to $35 per hour."
For some, being a doula is more than a job. Kelly Moyer of Crescent Moon Doulas in Portland, Ore., was an award-winning journalist before becoming a doula. She was inspired by the birth of her own daughter.
"Pregnancy, for me, was one of the most incredible times in my life," Moyer writes on Crescent Moon's Web site. "I wanted to help other women feel empowered by their birth experience. I strongly believe that every women needs to have someone to lean on during her pregnancy, throughout the labor and delivery process and after the baby arrives," she adds.
Moyer says she particularly likes providing postpartum doula services after mother and child return home.
"This is the time when we typically forget about the mother's needs in our culture," she says.
Related: Doula: What Is It?