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 doulas’ 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.

What does your pricing include? Look for how many visits her fee includes. Typically doulas offer advance visits (you can use that time to ask questions, work on your birth plan, and get to know each other more) and postpartum visits (to help with breastfeeding, answer questions, and process the birth). The standard is to offer 1-2 prenatal visits and 1-2 postpartum visits in addition to the birth.

Do you meet with us after the birth to review the labor and answer questions? This is related to number five but it’s important enough to add it twice. Processing your birth with someone who was there as an objective observer can be very therapeutic. Meeting after the birth will be a good time to ask questions and talk about how you feel about your birth.

Do you have a backup doula? Can I meet them ahead of time? How did you choose your backup doula? This is also pretty important. What if you go into labor and your beloved doula is already at another birth? Who will she call to come be with you? They should have backup so you can feel comfortable that you’ll be supported no matter what.

When will you be on call for my birth? Generally, you’ll want to find someone available at least two weeks before your due date and two weeks after, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Do you have references I can contact or reviews I can read? Don’t just take her word for it that she’s a good doula. Ask to speak to some of her past clients. Some websites (like DoulaMatch.net) post public reviews for you to read, which can be really helpful. In some areas, Yelp may also have doula reviews as well. As with any job interview, references are an important part of getting hired.

Do you offer any additional services? For example: birth photography or placenta encapsulation? Some doulas are childbirth educators, lactation consultants, yoga instructors, or massage therapists.

How many clients do you have around my due date? It is normal to have up to four clients in any given month. If that makes you nervous, go for a doula who only takes two clients a month. Or maybe you can be her only one! Some of the more experienced doulas might be busier while the new doulas don’t have as many clients at once.

Do you feel like she is listening to you? Did she ask you any questions? Is she interested in you and what you want? Ideally, a doula should simply be a mirror–reflecting back your desires for your labor and delivery, not their own opinions, biases, or agenda.

And finally (it’s not necessarily a question), but at the end of the interview, do you feel like you clicked with her? This is where a doula interview can feel like a first date. It really comes down to this: could you hang out with this person for 24+ hours? Do you feel comfortable with her? She will be with you during one of the most intimate and vulnerable times in your life, so your comfort with her is paramount. At the end of the interview, do you feel like you just made a new friend? That’s the feeling you’re looking for.

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 with women who have Medicaid. Check back soon for details of possible doulas, or 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.