So if you’ve already decided “I’m pretty sure I want a doula”… now you have to figure out “How do I find the right doula for me?” It may seem like a daunting task… but here are some ideas to help make this journey easier and shorter.

First, ask for referrals from friends, sisters, co-workers, your doctor or midwife, childbirth educator, or anyone else you are seeing during your pregnancy, including massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, etc. You never know who may have heard about a great doula! Also, look for a Doula Association in your area. In many cities, doulas have formed professional doula associations to make it easier to find a doula. There may be a website where you can “shop” for doulas in your area. Local in Austin is the Central Texas Doula Association

Once you have at least a few names, email or call them to seek out their availability. Some doulas may book many months in advance while others may have more immediate availability. When is the best time to start looking for a doula? Whenever you’ve made the decision– it’s ok to start looking. When is it too late to hire a doula? Technically, it’s never “too late” although the search may get tougher the closer you get to your due date. But as a doula myself, I can honestly say I’ve been hired as late as a mom’s due date!

Talk to a few doulas who are available around your due date. Start getting a feel for their personality, style, and philosophy. Definitely ask their price, but that should not necessarily be the “first” thing you ask, unless finances would place a limitation on whom you could choose. Typically, there are doulas in all price ranges, and if you need to find a low cost doula, there should be plenty of “doulas in training” who are willing to attend births for a very reasonable fee. Some even let you “set your price”, offering a “pay what you can” sliding scale fee. Many doulas offer payment plans, sliding or fee ranges, or will work with you in some way.

There may be some doulas you hit it off with initially, others may just not be a good fit for you. Listen to your instincts. Just because your best friend loved a certain doula does not always mean she is the right one for you! This relationship will be a very intimate one, and it’s crucial to find a person who you feel very comfortable with! Once you’ve narrowed your search to 2-3 doulas, then meet them in person, either in your home, or in a coffeeshop or other neutral place. Notice how you feel around them, do they put you instantly at ease or on edge? Do you feel like you “click” personally? Is this a person you can trust?

Of course, there are certain key questions one should consider when hiring a doula – how many clients has she worked with, what are her backup doula arrangements, how many clients does she take within a time frame, etc. You may also want to consider asking if she has children of her own and her reasons for becoming a doula in the first place. You’ll really get to hear about who she is, and decide if she’s a good fit for you. Ultimately, that is much more significant than just hiring the doula who has the most years of experience– you may find a lesser experienced doula might be just the right person to help you through this most amazing journey!

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Does a doula really make a difference?
Families report having a postpartum doula improved breastfeeding outcomes, increased their confidence as parents, helped them get better sleep, and improved their emotions, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.