While births are what many of us focus on, we also know prenatal doula consultations are a vital service. We cannot provide the best birth support without connecting during prenatal consults. The more comfortable our clients are with us, the better our birth support can be.
So, what does a successful prenatal doula consult look like? There are many ways to have a great consult. However, there are a few things we can do to ensure we are giving our clients the best prenatal preparation we can. We can also do things to make our job easier by knowing our client’s unique needs.
Prepare With A Questionnaire
As doulas, we know we have limited time during our prenatal consultations. It is important we maximize the time to ensure we truly get to know our clients. While we may not be strict about the clock, the reality is we are somewhat limited in time. It takes quite a bit of time to truly get to know someone.
Having a comprehensive questionnaire for clients to fill out before or between consultations can maximize your time together. Rather than spending time asking about previous pregnancies, allergies, goals, etc., you will have that information and can use for discussion points.
Some doulas prefer to use paper questionnaires. However, with many apps and programs like Google Forms, digital questionnaires have become common. The great part about digital is it easy to send to your client and they can simply fill out on their phone.
Use Active Listening – Keep The Focus on Your Client
As a doula, we love birth. It can be easy to find our audience and speak endlessly about the birth process, options, and more. However, during a prenatal consultation it is all about the client.
Help them lead the conversation. Use open ended questions and only share stories as relevant. Keep them brief and put the focus back on getting to know your clients’ needs for birth support.
Make sure you are using active listening. New parents spend a lot of time in appointments, chatting with friends about pregnancy, and listening to baby gear salespeople. Rarely are they given true active listening to know their needs and questions are truly heard.
With active listening, you listen with the intent to hear, not the intent to respond. It is ideal to repeat back a bit of what you heard to confirm you understand what they are saying. This helps clients realize you are truly hearing them. It also ensures you are not misunderstanding them.
When a client sees you as a true listener, they can feel and understand how you will hold space during their birth. You are reiterating how important they are in the birth process and that they deserve to be heard.
Most importantly, you are ensuring you are not misunderstanding their past, current desires for birth, or their needs.
Successful Prenatal Doula Consultations Refer As Needed
It is important to recognize that you cannot prepare clients for birth with only two consultations. Your primary goal as a doula is to get to know them and their needs for birth, then provide continuous labor support.
However, many clients will benefit from childbirth education, reading certain books, or other services such as therapy, massage, or physical therapy.
For first time birthers, or birthers hoping for a different experience than last time, recommending a comprehensive childbirth education class can be helpful. When clients know what to expect with birth, they will have realistic expectations for birth. If they expect you to be able to fully prepare them during active labor, they could report a negative experience having assumed you would be able to provide more than is physically possible.
If a client is experiencing sciatic pain, symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), you would want to refer them back to their provider with a recommendation for seeing a pelvic therapist and or a chiropractor. For clients planning to breastfeed while returning to work, a referral to Certified Breastfeeding Counselor or an IBCLC for a back-to-work consult before baby arrives can help prepare them.
As a doula, it can be helpful to create a resource list of vetted providers in your area. When making a referral, it is often best to provide three contacts so clients can make the right choice for them. This reduces responsibility on your part if you only provide one name and they have an unpleasant experience.
Plan and Include Their Partner/Support People in Prenatal Doula Consultations
It is important to make use of your visits. Before each visit, think about the goals you have. What do you still need to learn about your client to best support them?
It is also vital you include their partner and or support people in the visits. Who will be with them during the birth? Does everyone know and understand their role? Is the client aware of any potential visitor restrictions? Does the client understand having a lot of people present can make labor slower for some?
It is vital to include partners as often as you include the birthing person. While the birther is doing the work, it is still a big day for their partner too. Find out what support the partner needs. Learn how you can support and coach the partner in providing caring support for their birthing partner.
Take time to plan before each visit, include partners, make use of questionnaires, and refer as needed. These small steps can help in having successful prenatal doula consultations. You will learn more about this during your doula training. Not yet enrolled? Register today to get started turning your passion for birth into a doula career!