As a doula, your big day is the birth. However, part of helping clients have a positive birth experience is prenatal preparation. Knowing how to optimize your doula prenatal visits can make your job easier and your client’s birth smoother.
At the International Doula Institute, we strive to ensure you feel fully prepared to jump into doula work. However, there are many things we continue to learn as we work. Learning how to make the best of every doula prenatal visit is one of those things we can continue to learn.
Birth trends, cultural trends, birthing options, etc., are ever changing. Normal physiological birth might remain the same, but things which influence it do not. That’s why we strive to encourage ongoing education, and we hope our blog is part of that.
Here are five tips for your best doula prenatal:
#1: Always Know What You’re Walking Into
Never underestimate the power of a good and efficient intake questionnaire at the time of hire. We certainly do not want to overwhelm our clients. However, an efficient questionnaire can save a lot of time during the first prenatal (often one of just two visits) which allows you to focus on labor prep.
A good questionnaire might include:
- Family structure – who lives at home? What responsibilities might they have day to day?
- Do they have a high stress career or schooling? – knowing this can help you gauge if prenatal relaxation might be a helpful part of your support.
- What previous medical, reproductive health, or fertility information do they want to share?
- What do they find most helpful when they are stressed? Sick? – this can help you guess what comfort measures they might find most helpful.
- Do they enjoy reading? Use social media? – This can help you know what resources and recommendations to bring to the prenatal. Is a reading list helpful or might it be better to also suggest some evidenced-based birth accounts to follow?
- Do they have a birth plan or preference in mind? Many doulas assist with birth plans, but some clients may already have strong preferences.
- Who will be attending the birth? Do they have a partner? Is their mom, sister, cousin, etc., also planning to attend?
- Where are they planning to give birth? – you can come prepared knowing the birth options in that facility or hospital, or prepared to support for home birth or birth center options.
Every doula’s intake form will vary slightly. However, coming into a prenatal prepared will save time and help things run smoothly.
#2: Start With Your Scope of Practice
It is always important to reiterate your scope of practice. There can be a lot of misconceptions about the role of a doula.
Start your prenatal with a reminder of what you do, what you’ll cover during that prenatal visit, and what to expect at the next one.
Let them know when and how they can reach you with questions. While also reminding them what questions are appropriate for you and which are appropriate for their provider.
When clients fully understand your scope of practice and availability, it sets the stage for realistic expectations. It is important they understand that you cannot magically make their birth perfect, nor can you have the hard conversations with their provider for them.
#3: Include Everyone During Doula Prenatal Visits
When you’ve done a questionnaire, you will hopefully have an idea of who may be present during your prenatal. Obviously, the birthing person is the star of the show, but it is important to include her partner, kids, or any other support people who are present.
Including everyone is a great way to encourage a positive experience as they grow their family. Often, partners are unsure of their role, especially when a doula is involved. Taking time to educate the family unit about everyone’s role and importance is a great way to foster a positive experience during a prenatal visit.
#4: Encourage More Education Between Prenatal Visits
It is impossible to provide comprehensive childbirth education during two brief prenatal visits. However, without proper birth prep, it is possible a client might report a negative birth experience and inappropriately make you the scapegoat for that.
For first time parents, it is really helpful to encourage a comprehensive childbirth class between your two prenatal visits. If they cannot take a full class, take time to vet some resources like online classes that you can refer your clients to.
If they are experienced parents, you can encourage some books, a refresher class, or evidenced based sources like blogs and vlogs to help them feel prepared.
This way, they have the background education which takes time so that during prenatal visits you can focus on questions, discussing options, and going through their birth plan/preferences.
#5: Be Fun and Engaging
Yes, you are a professional and this is a business relationship. However, you have been invited to a very intimate and vulnerable time in people’s lives. It is important to establish a healthy, fun, and trustworthy relationship with them.
Be sure they feel comfortable with you. Ensure you feel comfortable supporting them and know what they are looking for in your services.