Frequently Asked Questions
While these questions will only skim the surface, I find that these are the most common questions during consultations.
Q: A doula- is that like a midwife?
A: While there is some overlap in how we care for our clients, midwives are literally “care providers”. As a doula, I do not do any clinical tasks (taking vitals, internal exams, etc) and do not give medical advice.
Q: Do you only do home births?
A: Nope! I’m happy to assist you wherever you decide to birth: home, hospital, or birth center. The best birth location is the one you will feel safest at.
Birth Doula Services
Q: Do we meet with you before the birth?
A: Yes! All of my packages include prenatal visits. In these visits we’ll discuss your goals and birth vision, backup plans, and more!
Q: When do you go on call?
A: I typically go on call at 37 weeks, but I have adjusted that before based on client history or high risk status. (I’ve attended live births as early as 28 weeks, so far!) Even if I’m not yet on call, I encourage clients to reach out if things change or start early. I will make every effort to attend regardless of gestation or outcome.
Q: What does “on call” mean?
A: When I’m on call, I plan to stay within about an hour of my client’s birth location. I keep my phone on me at all times and have a birth bag packed and ready to go. If I am more than an hour away, I let my clients know as soon as possible and have a backup arranged- just in case!
Q: How often do you call in backup? What does that look like for your clients?
A: I’ve been fortunate to only have to call in backup a few times. Generally I’ve called backup during a marathon birth so I can get some sleep, but there have been a couple of births that I’ve fully missed for one reason or another. I have a network of trusted backup, and we meet monthly to give all of our clients a chance to meet their possible backup. If I have to call in backup, I communicate to my clients with as much advance notice as possible.
Q: How long do you stay at a birth before calling in backup for a “reprieve”?
A: Honestly, this depends on the situation. I typically tell my clients that I might call in backup around the 18 hour mark. Sometimes I stay longer (I’ve occasionally been with clients for 40+ hours straight). I can also foresee a situation in which I would need to call backup sooner, such as if I’ve gone more than 24 hours without sleep. This reprieve is usually just long enough for me to get some rest. Whenever possible I stay at or very nearby the birthing location. (Car naps are a great option!)
Q: My partner is hesitant about hiring a doula. How do you support my partner?
A: It really depends on how involved my client’s partner wants to be in the birth. I generally encourage partners to be the primary touch during labor. I work for both you and your partner, and sometimes supporting partners looks like reminding them to eat, drink, use the bathroom, and rest. It often looks like gently coaching them on comfort measures or sweet things to say. I often joke that if I do my job right, most partners come out looking really, really good! I see birth as a time for you to grow your relationship, and I love seeing my clients fall more in love with each other during the birth of their baby!
Q: My mom/sister/best friend/other relationship will be there. How do you incorporate them?
A: While “the more, the merrier” doesn’t necessarily apply to labor, if my clients invite family or close friends they feel safe around, I think that is generally a positive thing. I like to talk to clients in the prenatal time to plan how they would like their additional support people involved. I’ve had clients assign their mom to picture duty or water duty, clients whose best friend wants to be very hands on with comfort measures, and clients whose family support looked more like an audience. As long as my clients feel loved and cared for, I’m open to any of those possibilities. Overall, I’ve had great experiences when my clients invite additional support people!
Q: How soon in labor do you join us?
A: Like so much with birth, this is so dependent on individual situations. The general “rule” is active labor, or when contractions are about four minutes apart, lasting at least a minute, for at least an hour. This changes with inductions or a history of fast labor, so I tend to be very flexible with this rule. I’ve met clients at the hospital to start their inductions and also had clients call me well past active labor. I ask that clients keep me updated on big changes, so I typically start my support between early and active labor.
Q: What happens if I need a cesarean birth?
A: I provide as much support as the hospital staff will allow! Some hospitals are more likely than others to allow me to accompany clients the the OR. The best bet for clients is to make their wishes known. I was allowed into a cesarean in 2020 when many doulas weren’t even allowed at vaginal births in hospitals. I have been allowed into the OR after a birth to stay with my client while their partner accompanied Baby to the nursery. It all came down to clients being very clear about what they wanted (and hospitals that were willing to compromise!)
Q: How long after the birth do you stay?
A: My average is about two hours post birth, although it can vary between an hour to four or five, depending on what the situation is. I generally stay through the first feed, when possible, or until my clients are moved to their postpartum room.
Q: Do birth doulas do anything in the postpartum time?
A: I love doing postpartum visits with my clients! I try to schedule a postpartum visit within the first week or two after birth, and I typically bring something to pamper my client with, such as a foot bath or face mask. We talk about the birth and I help fill in any memories that might be foggy. We discuss recovery, feeding, and sleep, and I always leave clients with resources surrounding postpartum mental health. I stay available to answer basic questions for the first six weeks postpartum (as the doula), but I’ve found that many clients like to stay in touch long after that! I am always open to chatting or seeing pictures of my adorable doula babies!
Q: How do you juggle photography and doula services? Which takes precedence?
A: I am always, always, a doula first. If my client’s birth takes a sudden turn and is extra challenging or intense, photography goes on the back-burner as I help them navigate the change. I recommend hiring a dedicated birth photographer if clients are very attached to a full documentation of their births. My camera is always close by and I’ve been very lucky to still get some incredible images of my clients while providing doula support from behind the lens.
Q: Do you have to take “crowing” shots?
A: Nope! I discuss preferences for angles and nudity/modesty at a prenatal visit. I’ve gotten some incredible birth shots that show nothing beneath my clients’ waists and I’ve also taken photos that show the vagina in all its birthy glory. It is totally up to the discretion of my clients.
Q: What other pictures do you take?
A: I love to get photos of my clients’ birth teams supporting them, whether that’s a nurse adjusting a monitor, a midwife listening to fetal heart tones, or a loving partner cradling them. I love “first look” photos: the moment a baby is placed in their parents’ arms for the first time. First latch or first feed photos are another favorite of mine. Besides that, I let my clients decide what kinds of pictures they would like, and I do my very best to capture them.
Q: What happens if I need a cesarean?
A: I provide as much documentation as the hospital staff will allow! Even when allowed in as a doula, not every hospital will allow photography within the OR. If I’m not allowed in (or if my camera is not allowed in), I make every effort to document the steps leading up to surgery, including the transfer the the OR (as allowed by staff). I take photos of the surgical scrubs and hats and everything else I can think to do. I also take photos of the return to the birth room after recovery, baby’s first feed, and all of my typical post-birth shots.
Postpartum Doula Services
Q: So… what is a postpartum doula?
A: Postpartum doulas are experienced care-givers, with specialized knowledge of the newborn and postpartum stages. Postpartum doulas care for the whole family, not just the baby.
Q: What do you do specifically?
A: As a postpartum doula, I work with clients to help them find their new normal after adding a new person to their family. I discuss expectations versus reality, help with feeds, and help around the house. On overnight shifts, I help protect the feeding relationship by using paced bottle feeds or waking my clients just long enough to feed baby. Sleep is a priority! Postpartum mental health is so important to me. I make sure that all of my clients are aware of the signs and symptoms to watch for and that they know the resources available to them.