As of October 2016, this page has been updated to reflect the recent changes made to the content of DONA® International's How to Hire a Doula page. The previous update was in 2014.
DONA® International (the oldest, largest and most respected doula association in the world) knows that a Doula’s education, training, experience and credentials are extremely important.
DONA® International now offers mothers and families a (new and improved) "How to Hire a Doula" page to help with the Doula hiring process. It includes some key point to consider when hiring a Doula, and also a link to search the database for Doulas. Additionally, DONA® now offers a PDF entitled "Hiring A Doula: A Guide for Parents". The DONA® guide includes a Birth Doula Interview Worksheet that expands the old website's number of questions from 9 questions to a total of 15 questions.
Below, I have answered those 15 questions here on my website for your convenience. I humbly suggest you ask these of any potential Doula. Additionally, I've preserved the 7 additional questions potential clients often ask me, which are not included in the new DONA® Birth Doula Interview Worksheet.
QUESTIONS and ANSWERS:
1.) Where did you receive your training and from which organization?
I received my training through a DONA Approved Birth Doula Training Workshop taught by a DONA® Birth Trainer in March of 2005 in Pekin, Illinois.
2.) How long was your training, and how much of it was devoted to supporting families (as opposed to business or other topics)? Have you taken any advanced trainings?
The training I received through the DONA Approved Birth Doula Training Workshop was a three day workshop, consisting of a total of 24 hours of education. My training consisted entirely of topics devoted to supporting families. I'm unaware if DONA® training after 2005 included business or other topics, or if other organizations include such training.
While I haven't taken any additional Doula trainings, I'm also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE).
As a footnote, from 2007 until recently, I was also a Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI-Loving Touch). Interest in that service was extremely minimal, so I discontinued infant massage instruction to focus on my other services.
3.) Are you certified or working toward certification? Why do you value certification?
Yes, I'm a Certified Birth Doula (CD-DONA) through DONA® International.
I'm glad there's a question addressing why I value certification. The original DONA® How to Hire a Doula page included a suggestion to check with the organization, by which, a Doula claims to be certified. As I've always said, I STRONGLY agree that suggestion. Unless I've missed it, I don't see that suggestion any longer.
Unfortunately, there are far too many people purposely misrepresenting themselves as being certified just to get clients. Not only do they misrepresent their certification, far too many misrepresent their experience as well. Sad, but true. Such falsifications degrade the quality work performed by legitimate CERTIFIED Doulas, and damage Doula-Client relationships. I've been a Doula for more than 12 years, which can be confirmed by all of my original certifications - I don't just claim Ive been a Doula for more than 12 years.
For Doulas such as myself, certified by DONA® International, re-certification is required every 3 years. In order to re-certify, completion of continuing education is required, along with payment the membership fee. Upon re-certification, a brand new 3-year certificate is provided. Every DONA®-certified Doula should provide a certification that is no older than 3 years. They should also be able to provide all of their previous certificates, not just their most recent one. I cannot speak to the rules of the other Doula associations, as a massive majority of them are relatively new, and haven't be around for as long as DONA® International.
I provide all of my original certificates for my credentials that prove how long I've been a Birth Doula. Any Doula you interview should be able to do the same, so if they claim they've been a Doula for X years, they should be able to prove it. Verbal claims CANNOT replace original certifications, nor can it replace verification through organizations. If there are copies or PDFs of certificates, there are originals somewhere - ask for them.
4.) Tell me about your experience supporting families as a doula. How long have you been a doula and how many families have you supported?
To date (May 2017), I've attended 75 births. For 74 of those births, I was directly hired by the client(s). For 1 of those births, I served as the back-up Birth Doula for a vacationing colleague (who was in Arizona at the time of the birth). I attended that birth with only 35 minutes notice. Additionally, in my earliest days as a Birth Doula, I attended 5 births in the capacity of an active observer. In total, I have been a party to 80 births.
PLEASE NOTE: I have attended every single birth for which I have been contracted.
5.) What techniques will you use to help me move through labor?
Births are different for different people. As such, there's no strict standard of techniques to be used at every birth. We may make use of positioning methods, or massage, pressure points, perhaps a birth ball, aromatherapy, or using water as an aid, such as a warm shower. In addition to physical techniques, verbal support can be a big help getting through labor. As I said, because one person's labor experience has nothing to do with someone else's, it's not easy to express exactly what techniques woud be used for your specific birth. I've generalized it here as best as I can.
6.) How will you support my partner through this process?
The main goal is to ensure your partner is the primary support person, taken as far as their comfort level allows. I'm there for you, but I'm also there to help the partner help you. In my 12 years as a Birth Doula, I've seen partners who want to be a part of everything, and others that want me to do everything. Whatever my clients want - is what my clients get. I love helping partners to support the laboring mom.
7.) How will you interact with my medical team?
I'd interact with the medical team the same as I do everybody, with respect. It's not a Birth Doula's place to discuss medical things directly with medical staff. A Birth Doula's duty is to her clients, thus medical issues are discussed with clients. Many medical situations are covered during prenatal meetings. Discussions with a client about medical topics are often references to previous conversations. I've heard many nasty stories from medical staff about Doulas that tried to tell nurses and doctors how to do their job, what is right and wrong. While a Birth Doula may disagree with medical staff, a Birth Doula should discuss the topic with the client, even if they're correct in their disagreement with medical staff.
8.) Will we meet for prenatal visits before the birth, and what is included in those visits?
Yes, as part of my standard services, there are two (2) prenatal visits. During the prenatal visits, we will address any concerns or fears you have, talk about topics you feel are important, and determine if there any topics, about which, you would like additional information. We will construct your Birth Plan. We will discuss medical interventions and procedures, and their possible side effects. We can compile questions for your care-provider to answer. We will talk about the varying factors affecting labor, from one birth, to another. We will go over the best position for your baby to be in for the birth, and we will do a belly mapping. We will discuss relaxation techniques, alleviating discomfort, emotional and physical needs, the various tests and procedures performed on newborns, and my overall level of involvement. It is also important to discuss recent visits to your doctor, or midwife. I also have created the Get A Good Start program, which is helpful advice for the first month of your baby's life. The intent of these prenatal visits is to ensure you are completely informed, and comfortable with your decisions. Additionally, these meetings also allow me to learn more about you personally, in order to help you achieve your goals.
9.) When do you consider yourself "on call" 24/7 for my birth? If there is a window of call time, what happens if I deliver before that time frame begins?
Beginning two weeks prior to your due date, I'm "on-call" 24 hours a day - that's a guarantee! There is no window of call time. My standard services include what I call the Four-Week Wraparound of Due Date. Beginning two weeks before your due date, and extending two weeks after your due date, I do not schedule any other births, as my time is dedicated only to your birth. I do not schedule vacations. I do not travel any distance that affects my ability to attend your birth.
10.) Will you come to me whenever I need you in labor, or is your support only available after a certain point in the process?
Generally speaking, I usually join you once "active labor" begins. That being said, I'm happy to be there earlier if you would feel better. Keep in mind, "early labor" can last for 12 hours, and can even last for days. Each woman's labor is different. Most doctors don't tell you to come to the hospital until you're in actuive labor. All of this can be discussed in greater length by phone, or at an Initial Interview.
11.) Will we meet postpartum, and what is included in those visits?
As part of my standard services, I include immediate postpartum time following the birth as long as 2 hours, as well as one postpartum visit in your home.
Immediate postpartum needs vary from one birth to another. I may need to help mom move her belongings to her postpartum room, or perhaps get her something to eat. Mom may need assistance taking a shower, or going to the washroom. Mother's partner may need a break too. Quite often, I am simply asked to just "hang out" and talk. I can assist mom with breastfeeding initiation/latching-on for her first nursing session. If mother and her partner are busy with the baby, but want to tell everybody the good news, I can make phone calls on my client's behalf. Truly, the intent is to make sure you are as comfortable as possible, and able to enjoy your new baby.
As for our postpartum meeting, we get together about a week or so after the birth where we can talk about the birth, and make sure you had a great experience. We can address any questions you may have about the birth. I can provide information on subjects of interest, such as finding a pediatrician, parenting groups, or issues with postpartum depression and breastfeeding. Afterword, it’s time to play with the baby.
12.) Are phone, email and text support available before and after the birth?
I'am available to you by both email, and phone (text). Depending on exactly when you emailed me, I vow to return all emails as soon as possible. As for phone support, unless we're within the Four-Week Wraparound of Due Date period mentioned above, I'm available between the hours of 9am and 10pm, 7 days a week. If there are any changes to my availability, you will be the first to know, and alternative options will be discussed.
13.) Do you have a backup doula for times when you are not available? May we meet your backup?
Yes, I always have a backup Doula for every birth. I have absolutely no objection to clients meeting my backup Doula, nor has any backup Doula been unwilling to meet with any of my clients. PLEASE NOTE: I have attended every single birth for which I have been contracted.
14.) What is your fee, and what does it include, and what are your refund policies? Are there any time limits or added fees if I have an unexpectedly long labor?
Originally, the fee for a Certified Birth Doula was a wide price range of $300 to $1,200, but in the last few years the range has increased to $600 to $1,500. For much of Chicagoland, the basic average was $700 to $900, but has risen to $800-$1,000. There are several factors that determine the fee, such as:
- Services Offered
- Economics of your Community
- Depth of Involvement
The fee for my standard Birth Doula services is $695. Given the modern averages of prices, I'm at the bottom of the typical price range for Doulas in the Chicagoland area. While my experience may call for a larger fee, I just don't feel right making people spend even more. More expensive, doesn't mean it's better. It's most common for my fee to be paid in two nearly-equal installments, which has proven to be helpful to my clients.
After researching Birth Doulas, I believe you'll find that my standard Birth Doula services are more extensive than most Birth Doulas. Combined with my extensive credentials and 12+ years of PROVABLE experience, I believe you'll be hard-pressed to find another Birth Doula with my combined educational background and experience offering the same standard services. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of verifying claims of certifications and experience. As a Birth Doula of 12+ years, I have several certifications to prove those 12 years. Also, please know that some brand new Doulas charge the same amount as (or more than) Doulas with years of experience.
PLEASE NOTE: If you feel that your personal financial situation deserves special consideration, I encourage you to contact me to inquire about a "sliding-scale" option.
My refund policy is as follows:
- For failure to attend your birth due to circumstances beyond my control ("acts of God"), a partial refund can be discussed, reviewing each situation independently.
- If I am unable to attend your birth because you do not contact me via the prearranged contact methods, there will be no refund.
15.) If we decide to hire you, what are our next steps?
Before you decide if I'm the right Doula for you, I prefer that we set-up an Initial Interview, which is a free meeting. This Initial Interview is usually held in pressure-free environments, such as Starbucks, or Panera. The Initial Interview is intended to be a relaxed get-together, allowing us to become better acquainted with each other. Please click on the Birth Doula Services link to the left to view my standard services in their entirety.
Though the following questions do not currently appear on DONA® International's "How to hire a doula" page, these are some additional questions that are commonly asked of me.
Have you ever been part of a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean)?
Yes, I have been a party to a successful VBAC. In additional to the successful VBAC, I have also had the wonderful opportunity to help 5 other women attempt a VBAC - doing literally everything possible to achieve that goal - yet circumstances were such that alternate plans were required in each case. Accommodations for these situations were already put in place by the birth plan.
Have you ever been part of a C-Section (Caesarean Section)?
Yes, I've actually been a part of the several caesarean procedures. The first procedure was in September of 2007. It was an amazing experience, and served as invaluable learning opportunity.
Have you ever worked with teens?
Yes I have. Most notably, I had the pleasure of working with a 17 year old girl that, due to her personal circumstances, did not have any family or friend support. I was her sole source of support, not only for the labor and delivery of her baby, but also before the labor and delivery of her baby. I felt honored to be a part of this young lady’s life, and I felt absolutely grateful that I was able to be a positive part of this young mother’s birth.
Have you ever been a part of a home birth?
While I was hired to work with a couple who planned a home birth, the baby had plans of its own, and a hospital birth took place instead.
How far are you willing to travel?
In general, for the sake of all parties involved, travel is limited to the distance that can be covered in one hour. However, I am willing to travel farther, provided that you fully understand the implications of additional travel times, and understand that an additional charge may apply.
How much time do you really dedicate to a birth?
Generally, 7-8 hour labors are considered pretty short. First-time labors last an average of 14-16 hours. I'm with you the entire time, even if the whole process lasts 46 hours - and yes - I've had a birth that lasted for 46 hours. Including prenatal and postpartum meetings, there is an additional 6-8 hours dedicated to your birth, with phone calls, emails and research accounting for an additional 3-4 hours. Lastly, whether for various meetings or the birth itself, travel-time can account for another 4-6 hours. On average, I have dedicated approximately 30 hours to the births for which I have been contracted.
Not only that, in order to make a firm commitment to be available my clients, and to avoid birth conflicts with other clients, I limit the number of clients I accept. Some in the Doula community are, if it were possible, willing to have one client every other day, and some take clients with similar due dates. For me, I limit myself to 1 client per month, which allows me to fully dedicate myself to each family's childbirth experience.
Let me expand on the "1 client per month" limitation ... beginning two weeks prior to your due date, and extending two weeks beyond your due date, I remain on-call 24 hours a day. Within this period of time, I don't schedule any other births, as my time is dedicated only to your birth. I refer to this feature of my services as the Four-Week Wraparound of Due Date. I do not schedule vacations, nor do I travel beyond a reasonable distance required to attend your birth. Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes, provided that successive clients understand my attendance is based on sequential order of hire.
Why did you become a Birth Doula?
Okay, hold on to your seat. The answer to this question isn't brief.
I have always been fascinated by pregnancy, and birth. In time, I learned an unfortunate truth - that doctors are often unable to fully inform their patients about all of their options, and that there are possible side effects from various medical interventions. I was determined to help change the effects of this fact.
As a Birth Doula, I am proud to serve as an invaluable source of information to expectant moms, and their families. It's an honor to help people during the miracle of childbirth, and it gives me deep satisfaction.
After a tragic accident in my family, I learned very quickly that we all need to be strong advocates for ourselves, and our family. By creating informed clients, I am able to directly help people become their own strongest advocate. Yet, my assistance does not stop when the client is completely informed, rather, I am a constant, additional source of support, and advocacy.
While I was attending a class in college, I met a women whose mother is a midwife. Moving well into a very satisfying conversation, this woman told me about Doulas, and literally, no more than two hours later, I enrolled in DONA® International's certification program. Really!
Incidentally, at the time of this writing, I learned that my great-grandmother was performing the duties of a Doula, long before the term is used as it is today. I am proud to carry on the tradition.