Over the years, I have gone to hundreds of interviews as a doula. Some couples come to the consultation fully prepared with a list of questions ready to go, and others show up having no idea what to ask. It’s so important to choose the right birth doula for you and being prepared with the right questions ahead of time will help you choose the best support person. But how do you know who is the right choice?
First, you need to have a good understanding of what you want/are looking for in a birth doula. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, here are 30 questions that will help determine just that. I have been asked all of these questions, and more and these are my top birth doula interview questions. These will help you get started and realize which questions are most important for you to ask when deciding on a doula.
The #1 question to ask before you even schedule an interview is…
1. Are you available for my due date?
You want to make sure that you aren’t wasting your time meeting with someone that is already booked around your due date or will be out of town.
2. How many births do you take per month?
Some doulas only take one client per month, and others take 5 or 6 clients or even more per month. You may not feel comfortable with someone taking too many due dates in a month (since that increases their chances of needing to use their backup for your birth). I usually recommend that a doula take no more than 4 birth doula clients a month; that’s around one birth per week.
3. Do you have any other clients that have due dates near mine?
If they do have other clients that are due during your month, ask when their due dates are and if those people are delivering close to where you will be delivering. (Just in case that doula is going from one birth to another. I personally have had people that were due over a month apart go into labor on the same day, but other clients that were due just days apart deliver their babies on completely different weeks. You just never know!)
4. Are you going to be in town for my due date?
If they are going out of town near or around your due date, you will want to ask for how long, how far away she will be (maybe it’s not a far drive), and how she handles births if she is out of town.
5. Do you have a backup doula? How did you choose your backup doula?
Doulas must have at least one backup doula. If the doula you are interviewing doesn’t have a backup doula, do not hire her as your doula. You should always receive care even if your hired doula happens not to be available. You never know; she could get into an accident on the way to your birth, be severely and/or contagiously ill, could be stuck in a flood, etc. Things happen. You need to know who her backup is, as well as how and why she chose her as her backup. It’s also nice if you can meet her backup in advance or at least talk to her over the phone.
6. Where did you receive your doula training?
I, personally, take my doula career very seriously and have invested a lot of time and money in my training and certifications. I felt that if I was going to make this my profession, I needed to treat it as such. I believe that all doulas should be trained and follow a code of ethics. (You’d be surprised about the number of doulas that choose not to be trained or certified.) There are so many doula trainings available now, so become familiar with them — the ones the I recommend the most are DONA and CAPPA since they are globally recognized and respected organizations.
7. How long ago was your training? What was required of you to receive your certification? How long did it take you to finish your training? Have you done any continued education?
Receiving a certification and continuing education is a great way to keep current on birth topics and stay familiar and knowledgable about new/different methods of support. However, as I said before, not all doulas choose to be trained or certified. She may have other experience though that equally qualifies her to do doula work. She could be an RN that worked as a labor and delivery nurse, or she could be a retired midwife. I believe that even these women should go through doula training because these roles are very different from one another. However, these women have a lot more experience than someone that has no labor support experience at all.
8. What is your birth philosophy?
This is always an interesting question, and it could be answered in many different ways. There is no particular right answer. By asking this question, you’ll find out so much about the doula you are interviewing. Your potential doula’s answer will let you know her passion and commitment to birth, and it will help you form a wise opinion about hiring her for your upcoming labor and birth.
9. How long have you been a doula? How many births have you been to?
To some families, a lot of experience is really important. To others, it may not be as significant. Some families want to feel confident that the doula knows how to best support them at their birth since birth can unfold in so many different ways. I will say though, experienced professionals all had to be beginners at some point, you know? Usually, people with less experience have a lower fee, which is great for families that are on a tight budget but are still wanting continuous support.
10. Have you had any children? If so, did your birth experiences influence you to be a doula? Why? What did you learn from your birth experiences?
Some women feel that they must hire a doula that has had a child themselves. To others, it’s not significant. I understand that it is nice to have that common bond, but having a baby isn’t a necessity to be a good doula. (There are plenty of great male OBs out there that have never given birth as well as great female OBs that have never had a baby). If the doula hasn’t had a baby, hopefully, she has done additional training and is educating herself more on the process to provide better support and care.
11. Why did you decide to become a doula?
This is always my favorite question. You can tell when someone really loves their job when they tell you how they fell in love with their career as a doula.
12. What are your fees?
There isn’t a standard rate for doulas. Pricing could be as low as $300 (or possibly less if she is brand new) to as high as $2,000 or even more (depending on where you are located). Usually, newer doulas charge less than seasoned doulas. No matter how new the doula is, though, her time for training, remaining on-call and providing continuous emotional, physical, and educational support should be compensated fairly.
13. What forms of payment do you accept?
Maybe they only accept cash or check. They may only accept credit cards or can send you an invoice via PayPal. This is good to know, especially if you want to set up a payment plan.
14. What is included in your doula package?
How many prenatal visits will you have? How long are your prenatal visits? Will you receive a postpartum visit after your baby is born? If so, one or two? Does their birth doula package include any of their other services? Maybe childbirth classes, massage, or placenta encapsulation? It’s good to know what you are paying for.
15. What do you typically cover during your prenatal visits?
If your curious about the topics that they usually cover during their prenatal visits with clients, ask!
16. Where do we meet your clients for prenatal visits?
Some doulas will come to your home for prenatal visits. Others may be a part of an agency, and you have to meet your doula at their office. Understand where your meetings will take place, and if you need to prepare or bring anything with you.
17. Have you been to my hospital/birth center before? What were your experiences like?
There are certain hospitals that I have been to that I’ve had terrible experiences at. I can say the same thing about a birth center too. Asking the doulas what their experiences are like will give you a good idea of what your experience might be like. It will also show you how that doula handled those challenging births.
18. Have you worked with my doctor/midwife before? What were your experiences like?
The same thing goes for your care provider. Doulas are working with them constantly, and they get to see behind the curtain/ what your care provider is really like. This can better prepare you for what to expect. Since they have the experiences, they can tell you what you can expect from your doctor or midwife during labor and birth.
19. When will you join me in labor? Would you come to my home first?
Most doulas will help you labor at home before you go to the hospital. They want to make sure that you don’t get to the hospital too soon. (You don’t want to get to the hospital too early just to be sent back home.)
20. How do you feel about cesarean births?
Doulas should be supportive of all births. There is no wrong way to have a baby. Everything is your choice. As long as you feel happy and satisfied with your experience, that was the right birth for you. Do not let a doula tell you that cesareans are all bad because that is definitely not the case.
21. Do you attend cesarean births? If so, how do you support women during a cesarean and after one?
22. What if I labor longer than 12-hours or 24-hours? Will you still be there? Does the price change?
Personally, I charge only one package fee. Whether you have a 2-hour birth or a 48-hour birth, everyone pays the same fee. I don’t feel that it is right for a woman to worry about how much she is going to owe me at the end of her birth. She should not be staring at the clock between contractions. She shouldn’t be worrying about anything, for that matter! However, some doulas will charge an hourly fee after a certain point. Be sure to ask this in advance.
23. What happens to my fee if there was no labor support provided? (In case you have a fast birth, an emergency c-section due to health reasons, etc.)
Some doulas replace that lost labor support time with a different service, like postpartum doula care or lactation support or massage appointments. Other doulas refund a part of their fee. Understand how she handles situations like these that are beyond anyone’s control.
24. How long will you stay with me after I give birth?
It’s common for doulas to stay up to 2-hours (or even more) to help with initial breastfeeding, taking pictures for you and your new family member, etc.
25. How would you describe your support style as a doula?
This is a great question to ask to get a better understanding of how they like to work. Some doulas are better at being very quiet and provided a powerful silent, gentle, and calm force. Others are better at being a coach or a cheerleader. And some will be like a mother to you, or a sister, or a friend. Know what it is that you are wanting, and look for the characteristics with each doula that you interview. Read about the Five Love Languages of Labor and Delivery here.
26. What do you typically do when supporting one of your clients during labor and birth?
It’s great to know the relaxation/coping techniques as well as the different positions that they use with their clients during labor. These answers will give you a good sense of how prepared they are to support you during your baby’s birth. (Do they use aromatherapy, massage, counter pressure, hydrotherapy, hot packs/ cold packs, pressure points, etc.?)
27. How do you feel about epidurals or any pain medication?
28. Do you have any references? If so, can I speak with your references? If not, do you have any reviews that I can read?
Being able to read reviews or speak to other women that have used them as doulas is a great way to see if she will be the right fit for you. Most women will go in full detail about their doula and how helpful she was at the birth. These always help when determining the right doula for you.
29. (If you are taking Bradley Classes or Hypnobabies/Hypnobirthing classes): How familiar are you with the childbirth classes that I’m taking? Have you supported anyone else who has taken these classes?
Most doulas are very familiar with all the various childbirth classes available. Ask if your potential doula has supported anyone using these specific techniques and what their experiences are. I recommend hiring a doula who is familiar with your chosen techniques and makes them a priority in your discussions about her role in how the birth could play out.
30. Do you offer any additional services? Have you done any other trainings?
Speaking for myself, once I realized that I wanted to be a birth doula, I decided to go to massage therapy school so I could better support laboring women. I then became a certified postpartum doula, childbirth educator, newborn educator, infant massage instructor, and more! You may be finding someone who has received a lot of training and education in other areas, and you could take advantage of their knowledge and other services as well.
There you have it! My top 30 interview questions to ask when hiring a birth doula. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions and if there are any other questions that you think I should add to the list. Please share in the comments below!