There's sometimes a big gap between the resources available to families planning their pregnancies and births, and I've discovered that one of those has a pretty direct impact on my work: making the connection. Most families read about professional doulas as an idea in a book, blog, or discussion board, and decide that they want one. If they're lucky, the source they've been using includes some starting points for finding a birth professional, but I've found that in many cases they don't, or the information they have is outdated. So where should you start?
Most people find me through a simple Google search.This can be a good start, but might not give you quite as many results as you’d like, and they may not be as accurate or complete. Although most doulas who practice regularly will have websites, doulas who practice less frequently, who use need-based fee structures, or who are less comfortable with web design might not. So while Google might be a good place to get a few names, it’s not likely to get you a full list of the doulas in your area, and if you're in an area with a relatively small doula community, you're probably feeling a little bit lost.
When I’m contacted by someone I’m not available to support, I usually direct them to the following places. Although some are region-specific, they may still point you in a good direction even if they don’t work for you directly:
- Certifying and training organizations like DONA International, CAPPA, Birthing From Within, Birth Arts International, etc almost always include an online listing of their certified members as well as a number you can call to request a list of member doulas who are in the certification process or whose certification has lapsed.
- DoulaMatch allows you to search doula profiles by both your estimated due date and area. Doula profiles also include fee information, links to websites, and sometimes testimonials from previous clients.
- Doulas.com allows you to search by your zip code (in the US) or by province in Canada. Detailed profiles can provide more information about service areas, fees, and availability. If your partner has been injured or killed in military action, or will be deployed at the time of your birth, you may be eligible for Operation Special Delivery, which is also coordinated through doulas.com.
- Regional doula associations, like certifying organizations, often include a list of its members on the website. Like the certifying organizations, they don't always include full profiles, so you may have to contact doulas by phone, e-mail, or through links to their websites to confirm availability and service areas.
- If you know any doulas or other professionals who deal with birth holistically—prenatal chiropractors, prenatal yoga or exercise instructors, your prenatal class instructor (especially if you took private classes), etc—you can ask them if they can refer you to a name or two. Referrals come with the added bonus of at least some personal knowledge about the professional you’re seeking, and most of us who work with birth outside of the medical sphere will have a few contacts in different categories.
The trick is to find a doula who serves your area, who is available in your date range (assume at least a week on either side of your estimated date; more if you’re expecting multiples or have been given several potential due dates), and who you trust. The last is something you’ll evaluate during your interview, but the first can often be gleaned approximately from their online presence and more specifically after you’ve made contact.
Ideally, you’ll be able to find at least three doulas to interview. Three is usually a good number, especially if you’ve got time, because you’ll have a chance to interview each and compare their services, philosophies, fees, and your comfort level with one another. You may find that your third interview brings up something you’d like to follow up on from your first, and that’s ok! Just keep in mind that many doulas have a time limit—usually no more than two weeks—between your consultation and the time they expect a decision. It’s not about rushing you, but it can be a strain on their livelihood to hold a date for a potential client indefinitely without knowing they’ll be hired for that time frame. Keep these time limits in mind when you're setting up interviews.