You are pregnant! Congratulations! You are now in learning mode; so many books to read, so many websites to visit...and so many decisions to make. One thing that you may want to do is hire a Doula; but what is a Doula? How do you find one? How do you hire one? Well, believe it or not, the answers may be very simple.
According to the DONA (Doulas of North America) website www.dona.org - "Giving birth to a baby is so much more than a physical phenomenon; it engages parents-to-be in a transformational experience, a key life event full of emotion and meaning. A doula who accompanies a woman in labor 'mothers the mother', taking care of her emotional needs throughout childbirth. A doula also provides support and suggestions for partners that can enhance their experiences of birth." The word has come to refer to "a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after childbirth." A Doula differs from a Midwife in that Doulas do not perform clinical or medical procedures. A Midwife has been medically trained to attend a birthing woman, and to 'catch' her baby. A Doula is present to continuously provide physical and emotional support for the birthing woman and her partner during the birthing process.
When should you start looking for a Doula? Really, once you are pregnant, and you decide you want to have a Doula present at your birth, you should start looking for one. The more popular and experienced Doulas may book-up months in advance. Ask your doctor, childbirth educator, and friends if they have any recommendations. Finding a Doula requires doing your research and following your "gut." There are many organizations that train Doulas. However, a person can also be a Doula without any specific training. So it's very important to interview prospective Doulas and to find out as much information as you can about them. You may want to start with a phone interview, and then after shortening your prospective list, invite them for a one-on-one interview.
Organizations that list Doulas:
There are many Doulas in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their training and philosophies will vary. Take the time to find one you are comfortable with, and who will meet your emotional needs as well. Ask yourself "Did we click?" "Is this a face I can look at for twenty plus hours?" "How does my partner feel about her?" As to cost, Doulas charge based upon experience, education and services that they offer. Newly trained Doulas or Doulas working on their certification may be less expensive. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for an experienced Doula the cost may average $800.00 to $1,400.00, depending on their certifications and location. As a side note: some insurance agencies are now paying for Doula support. Give your insurance agency a call and ask if they will pay for a Doula; ask your prospective Doula if she is willing to handle third-party payment systems. You can also use a Prepaid Medical Expense Account with your employer to pay for your Doula.
Lastly before making that final decision, ask for references...and then follow-up by calling them to hear what they have to say.
Once you have selected the Doula of your choice and you want to hire her, call and make sure you are officially on "the books". Each Doula is unique in their process. Most Doulas will have a contract that you will sign. Some Doulas take payments, some will ask for full payment at the time the contract is signed. Make sure you are clear on how payments and refunds work.
If you have followed these suggestions, you will be in very capable and caring hands. A Doula may not be able to guarantee the "Perfect Birth" but with her on your team, you should have a much more rewarding experience.
Wishing you a safe and calm birth!
Deanna Jesus is a Certified Labor Doula and HypnoBirthing™ instructor. Visit her website at birthingbabies.com.