How to Choose the Right Doula for You

If you’re in the Rochester area and you’re looking for a doula, you should know we have a fairly robust birth community (especially considering the size of our city). All the options available to you might leave you overwhelmed, but the good news is, you will absolutely find what you’re looking for. So where do you start? There are a few important points of criteria to consider when choosing a doula:

1. Availability

Doulas set their own caps on how many births they’ll take in a given time frame based on what they’re comfortable with. They may take one per month, or five per month, or one birth quarterly. So there’s no sense in setting up an interview if the doula you’re interested in has hit their max capacity for the time around your estimated due date. But due dates mean very little when it comes to scheduling. It’s entirely normal to give birth anywhere from two weeks before to two weeks after your “due date”, so it’s considered more of a due month and it’s pretty impossible to plan any dates that might overlap. This is why doulas have back-ups  or work within a partnership. If two births overlap, or if for any other reason your main doula cannot make it to your birth(say, she’s at a wedding, or on vacation, or very ill, or experiencing unexpected paralysis, or her car breaks down) you’ll have a backup doula come to be with you during labor. So ask a potential doula about her availability and leave it up to her to decide if she’s open during your due month. 

2. Experience and Price Point

You’ll need to decide what amount of experience you’d like your doula to have, what your budget is, if you’ll need a payment plan, and move forward from there.  Doulas in the Rochester area charge anywhere from $100 to $1,500 as a flat rate. Although there are a few variations, this price typically includes one to two prenatal appointments, support for the entirety of your labor and delivery, and a postpartum appointment. 

The price a doula charges is usually based on their experience level, with newer doulas charging less and veteran doulas charging more. Doulas working toward their initial certification will often do births for free. If cost is a barrier for you, keep in mind, there is usually an option for payment plans so you don’t need to pay their fee all at once. Additionally, it’s also possible to pay with an HSA (healthcare spending account) if you have one, or be partially (or fully) reimbursed by your insurance company for doula services.


This is really the ultimate piece to the puzzle. Let’s face it, you’re hiring a stranger who will see you naked in a few months. If you don’t feel comfortable having coffee with this person, you won’t feel comfortable with them during some of the most vulnerable moments of your life. So this is one item you have to feel out. The way to do this is to set up an interview, see how it flows, and if you jive with the person. Doulas are trained professionals, but they’re also just people with their own personalities and they know they’re not a perfect fit for everyone. DONA (the doula organization of North America) has this great doula hiring/interviewing guide to offer. 

But in addition to the questions they prompt you to ask, I’d encourage you to go a little deeper during an interview to get a better grasp on how a doula practices and what her style is. Here are some questions doulas wish people would ask more often:

  • What are some of the most important things you’ve learned in your experience as a doula?
  • Have you ever disagreed with the advice given by the medical staff? How did you handle that?
  • What’s the most difficult birth you’ve ever done and what made it that way?
  • What’s the most magical birth you’ve ever done and what made it that way?
  • How do you handle it when a mom changes her mind on something (or everything) in her birth plan?
  • What’s something you WON’T do? How much is too much to ask? (For example: will you let my dog out or go pick up my mother-in-law if I ask?)

The bottom line is this: you have choices. What an excellent problem to have. Dr. John H. Kennell, one of the founders of DONA once said, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” He’s right. Everyone deserves a doula in one capacity or another, but it’s a deeply personal choice. Check your boxes and then check your gut; it’ll lead you in the right direction and it’s excellent practice for parenthood. Picking a doula is like picking a great bra. You need just the right amount of support without being irritated at the end of the day.


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