Are you planning to have a natural birth?
The basis of doula training is supporting the natural physiology of birth. All doulas have a standard, basic "tool kit" of labour support techniques and ideas. An experienced doula will not only be confident with natural birth, when all goes to plan, but will also know what to do when things start to vary from Plan A.
It can take time before a doula is familiar with policies and procedures that relate to your specific birthing environment. Not only do some women need physical support with unexpected outcomes, but sometimes more importantly with the emotional support (both during and after the process). Has the doula supported the unexpected outcomes and how does she handle this? More importantly, how does she prepare you for possible unexpected outcomes?
Hint: If a doula dismisses or minimises possible unexpected outcomes it’s a red flag!
On the flip side of “the basis of doula training is supporting the natural physiology of birth”, some doulas will start off their careers only focusing on the possibility of a natural birth. And you may even come across some doulas who give the impression that pain relief is not necessary or that they have a judgment on the issue.
If you’re considering pain relief, then you may want to find a doula whom not only can give you information on your pain relief options, but has also worked in your birth setting providing such support in a variety of scenarios. Experienced doulas understand that there is no guarantee in any labour situation and that personal views on choices have no place as a doula.
Hint: If a doula gives you the impression that there is some way to guarantee avoiding the need for pain relief or she dismisses your thoughts on pain relief, it’s a red flag!
Standard doula training covers the basics of baby, rather than in-depth breastfeeding and postnatal support. However, there are many specific Postnatal Doula training courses and other skill sets that can be of benefit. Even if you are thinking the baby period will be a breeze – knowing that your doula is experienced and you can call on your doula if you need her, is extremely beneficial and reassuring.
Hint: You’ll want someone who has more experience than just their own personal experience with their own children.
It’s certainly worthwhile asking about additional training and other skills a doula may offer. All doulas have similar basic training however, after that, personalities and professional skills vary greatly. It really pays to work out what it is you need from your doula and what skill set and personality will suit you.
Hint: While every professional doula starts off with doula training, not all new doulas are starting from the same level of life experience. Other life skills; trainings; educational programs can all enhance a doula’s support.
Just like any profession, there are enthusiastic newbies who just shine and will be the absolute perfect match for you. On the other hand, it may be that an experienced, well-rounded doula is just what you need. And while the enthusiastic newbie is perfect for your friend, when you interview the doula you find that you just can’t imagine her energy in your birth space. This doesn't mean that the doula is “wrong”, it’s just that she isn't the right fit for you. No one doula can be the right doula for every woman!
Hint: It is worthwhile meeting with a few different doulas, with different levels of experience.