A: Most doulas include some basic pre- and post-partum care along with their birth services. A typical doula will offer some variation of the following:
- One or two prenatal visits: If you do a live interview, this will often count as a first visit. During these, the doula will ask about your desires and expectations, what you picture for the birth, and what matters to you. She will aim to understand your goals and your needs so she can provide you with the kind of support you need.
- Phone or e-mail availability: Doulas will be available to you as a resource and source of information and support, from the moment you make the hire, until after the baby is born.
- An on-call period around your due date: Usually this will approximate a 4 – 6 week window during which she will be available 24 hours a day, ready to join you at a moment’s notice. She will take a separate vehicle, avoid alcohol, carry her phone, and like Clark Kent into Superman, she will be ready to insta-switch into doula mode when summoned.
- Continuous attendance at your labour & birth: Generally your doula will be the first person on the scene. She will join you sometime in early – active labour, as soon as you feel you would benefit from her support. She will remain with you for the entirety of your labour and birth, whether it takes 4 hours or 44 hours. She will remain constant during nursing shift changes. She will also be one of the last to leave, after you have your baby, your immediate questions have been answered, breastfeeding has been initiated, and you are all resting comfortably.
- One or two postpartum visits: Most doulas include one or more visits after your baby is born, to make sure everything is going well, answer questions, help solve problems, and support everyone get settled into their new roles as a family.
- Extras: Some doulas also include extra services with their doula package, such as writing up your birth story, birth photography, or extra postpartum care. Some bring certification in extra services such as massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, breastfeeding counselling, placenta encapsulation, or other skills that they can offer. Some provide additional tools or props, such as birth balls, labour pools, TENS machines, or rebozos.
All doulas, regardless of what they offer, will explain what services they provide during your first interview. Although extra services can be appealing and useful, the real quality to look for in a doula is simply a connection—a feeling of rapport and comfort and trust. In general, having a doula that’s a good fit for your family will ultimately matter more to you than the specific extras she might provide.
-By Stephanie Ondrack