More and more women are turning to birth coaches, and with good reason. Some studies show using a doula reduces the length of labor, pain levels, and C-section rates up to 50 percent. "Many mothers refer to them as the women who have made their birthing experience a 'dreamy' one," says Giuditta Tornetta, a birth coach at JoyinBirthing.com.
A doula will give you the emotional support and information that most OB/GYNs -- and stressed-out husbands -- can't provide. "Basically a doula is there to help the mom get the birth she wants," says Stephanie Heintzeler, a doula at TheNewYorkDoula.com. But as with choosing your doctor, midwife, and pediatrician, it's important to choose a doula that's right for you.
Here's how ...
- Date your doula. "One of the most important things about hiring a birth coach is chemistry," says Tornett. Talk on the phone with your doula and set up a "date" -- and go on more than one. "Sure, you might be attracted by experience or reputation, but remember this is someone you will be spending long intimate hours with, so make sure you enjoy her company, voice, attitude, demeanor, and overall energy." Many local hospitals and birthing centers even provide a speed-dating type of event for couples and coaches. "This allows each couple to meet with the coach for 10 minutes each and get a feel for them," says Ingrid von Burg at PurelyPrivatePrental.com. "The nice thing is that this type of event allows you to understand quickly the different styles as well as the different components of birthing."
- Choose someone who "knows" your hospital. This isn't an absoulte, but it's definitely a plus to work with a doula who knows the ins and outs of your hospital and who's worked with the staff (and maybe even your OB) before. To weigh various options in a time-efficient fashion, ask if your hospital has a "meet the birth coaches or doulas" night. It's a great place to start "if you are looking for a coach that has experience with your hospital so that she knows the rules and/or customs of that location," says von Burg.
- Ask the right questions. Have a list of questions ready for your interview, for example: How do you see yourself helping me and my partner during labor? What is your philosophy on labor and birth? Are you specialized in anything in particular? (Some are hypnotherapists, others massage therapists, while still others may specialize in home or water births.) You should ask practical questions too: Do you accept insurance? Do you have a back-up person? Do I get my money back if I have a c-section? (Doulas generally aren't allowed in surgery.)
More from The Stir: Do I Need a Doula? 11 Good Reasons to Use One
- Talk about money up-front. "There's a wide range of fees for services -- $350 to $1,000," says Haughbrook. New or low-cost doulas may be hired for around $500 per birth. Insurance will sometimes pay for a portion of the service; you just need to submit the proper documents for reimbursement, which can be provided to you from your doula practice. Make sure you understand everything your doula will be charging for and what her services include up-front. (For example, does she offer postpartum services or will that cost you extra?)
- Check out her certification. Since anyone can call themselves a "birth coach," it's important to check for certification. "Most doulas are certified by Doulas of North America, or DONA, which require certain minimum births attended among other requirements," says Debi Tracy, a parent child education instructor at OneBirthataTime.com. Other great organizations include ProDoula and Birth Arts International, says Aliza Bancoff at MainlineDoulas.com.
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