A Guide to Working with Doulas


Cayuga Community Health Network is offering training to teach local women who to serve as doulas, or birth coaches. Doulas are non-medical. Rather, they help pregnant women create birth plans to better think about how they want their labor to go. They also will support them during labor, offering supportive words, soothing touches, and can remind the woman of her goals set before labor.

For pregnant women, it’s important that this person meets their needs. Here is a list of questions to ensure that the birth coach is the right person for you.

  1. Are you up-to-date on all your vaccinations?

    Pregnant women and infants are vulnerable to illnesses that could have major impacts on their health. This means it’s especially important that a doula has been vaccinated. In fact, some hospitals will prohibit some people from being on the maternity floor if they don’t have their vaccinations to protect their young patients.

 2. Why did you become a doula?

Her answer may help you decide if you want to work with this person. Do you like what you hear? Do you click with her answers? Hearing about her passion and experience may help you decide she is the one to help you when you will really need that support.

3. Can you tell me more about our experiences and training?

Many people who are trained in this field also have personal experiences they are bringing to the table. The training they did should align with DONA, an international resource, or some other credible source. And while you should ask about certification, be aware that most certification process require them to attend births within a certain amount of time, so you may be working with someone who is trained and working toward certification, but hasn’t fulfilled the requirements yet.

4. How would you describe your doula style? What are your strengths?

As the client, you make all decisions, including what you want from your doula. Having said that, you want to make sure your expectations match your doula’s style. Do you want an advocate to help navigate the healthcare system? Do you want quiet reminders of your own goals and action plan? Do you want someone to bring energy and excitement to the labor process? Ask her about her style and her strengths to make sure that matches up with your vision.

5. What is included in your price and are there different options?

Ask your doula exactly what her fees include. Typically, doulas offer prenatal visits before the birth (where you can ask questions, make a birth plan, and get to know each other) and postpartum visits after the birth (where they can help you in areas such as breast feeding and answer other newborn questions). Typical doulas offer 1 or 2 prenatal visits and 1 or 2 postpartum visits, as well attending the birth.

6. Can we meet after the birth to talk about how it went and go over any questions?

This is similar to the last question but is very important to ask. Reviewing your birth with someone who was there can be very helpful. Meeting after the birth is a great time to ask questions about your newborn and talk about any feelings that may have arisen after the birth. Postpartum meetings can be very therapeutic for many women.

7. Do you have a backup doula that I can meet with if your unavailable?

This is also a very important question because if you go into labor and your primary doula is at another birth you should know who she will call to come help you. Your primary doula should always have a backup so that you are supported no matter what. It will likely be helpful to meet your secondary doula and develop a strong relationship with them as well.

8. When would you be on call?

Typically, you’ll want to find a doula who is available to be on call about two weeks before and for two weeks after your due date. Your doula should be available during this time 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You should work with your doula to make a plan for contacting each other when the labor begins.

9. Could I speak with some of your references or read your reviews?

Do some research to make sure that the person you are interviewing with is a good doula, don’t just take her word for it. Ask if you can speak to some of her past clients. Visit websites (like DoulaMatch.net) that post public reviews for you to read. Yelp may also have some reviews available depending on your area. References are just as important for your doula as they are for people looking to get a job.

10. Do you offer any other birth related services?

For example, some doulas or their companies offer birth photography or placenta encapsulation. Other doulas may be childbirth educators, breastfeeding teachers, yoga instructors, or massage therapists. These services may come at an additional cost so be sure to ask for price information.

11. How many clients do you have?

Many doulas have about four clients each month. Make sure you ask the doula about her client load in the interview if you would rather have a doula with only 2 clients a month. It is possible you may be her only client! More experienced doulas tend to be busier, while new doulas tend to have more time to dedicate to fewer patients.

After the interview…

Do you feel like she listened well and asked questions? Is she interested your goals and needs?

Ideally, your doula should act as a mirror and reflect your stated desires for your labor and delivery. Doulas are not there to push their own opinions, biases, or agendas. If you feel this may be the case, try meeting with some other options to find a doula of better fit.

And finally, do you feel like you connected with her?

Some doula interviews may feel like a first date. It’s important to ask yourself: could you be around this person for 24+ hours? Do you feel comfortable and confident in her? The doula you chose will be with you for one of your most intimate and life changing experiences so your comfort should be her top priority. At the end of the interview, you should feel as though you have just created a new friendship.

For more information about the program, call Amy Dickman at (315) 252-4212 or email Adickman@cayugahealthnetwork.org.


Interested in Having a Doula?

CCHN has funding from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York to support doulas to be trained and work with women who have Medicaid. The doula can provide two prenatal and two postnatal appointments with you to help you create a birth plan and help you adjust at home after birth. The doula will also be present at the hospital as your advocate during labor and delivery. All of these services are free. Email Amy Dickman to let her know you are pregnant and interested in being connected with a local doula.

More questions

Here is a list of 30 more detailed questions to make sure you get the right fit for this life changing experience.