A Practical Guide to Working with a Birth Doula

Mission Viejo doula breastfeeding support practical guide to working with a birth doula

Although more and more expecting parents have heard about doulas, there is still a lot of mystery around the mechanics of how it actually works to hire and work with a doula. 

Many parents don't know that there are just about as many ways to be a doula as there are doulas themselves! There are differences in the way doulas take on clients, what doulas include in their service packages, and even how long doulas stay with clients during labor. 

Even with more families interested in the support of a doula during birth, there are a lot of questions about the logistics of how having a doula on your team actually works in real life.

We thought we'd write a post explaining how our own birth doula support process works, from booking all the way through the end of a contract with a family. 

From A-Z, here's what it looks like to work with us as your birth doulas!

The booking process

  • Send us a contact form through our website or give us a call to inquire about birth doula services. We respond and cover the basics:

    • Estimated due date (to make sure we still have room for another family due around that time since we accept a limited number of birth clients each month)

    • Where you live and your intended birth place (to make sure we serve your area)

    • Whether this is a first birth or subsequent birth

    • We recommend that parents read our Birth Doula page if they haven't already, so they understand a bit more about the services we offer. (Our 3 Most Important Aspects of Our Approach post is another great resource to learn more about the way we work with parents if you want to know more about us.)

    • We set up a time for an in-person consultation (through an online scheduling tool to make finding a time to meet quick and easy)

  • We meet for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation in your home. This 1-hour meeting gives us a chance to get to know each other in person. We normally have a few questions to ask, and parents usually have questions of their own!

  • We reserve space for you for 1 week. Choosing someone to support you in birth is a big deal. Take your time, talk to your partner or other support people, and interview other doulas. We'll reserve your due date slot for 1 week while you decide.

  • We follow up after the consultation with an email that contains a booking link. If you decide you'd like to move forward with us, you can choose your doula support package, sign your contract, fill out a short registration form, and pay your deposit easily online. (The deposit is half of whichever birth doula package you choose, and the remaining half of the payment is due at 36 weeks.)

  • Now you have doulas!


Working together during pregnancy

  • Use us as a resource! Get in touch if you need any referrals or support, let us know if you have questions about something your care provider mentioned, ask us for recommendations for continued reading on a certain subject... we're here to support you however we can! You can text or email us during pregnancy, and if we need to schedule a phone call for something tough to type out, we can do that too. (This is a HUGE plus to booking us earlier in pregnancy! The longer you have doulas on your team, the more support we can give you.) Preview some of our favorite resources here. 

  • Create your birth plan with your complimentary Motherboard Birth membership. We include a one-year membership to the amazing resource Motherboard Birth for all our birth doula clients. We love the simplicity of their birth plan template and the collaborative nature of their approach. It’s a wonderful resource for learning more about your options for birth too! If you want to learn more about why we love Motherboard and see some screenshots of their resources, check out this blog post.

  • If you choose one of our birth doula packages that includes birth preparation classes, you can choose when you’d like to attend our group classes (usually around the late second/early third trimester)

  • We'll schedule your prenatal visit around your 35th-36th week of pregnancy. This visit is usually an hour or two and takes place in your home. You don't need to prepare anything for this visit. We normally take some time to catch up, talk about any new developments in your emotional or physical experiences, and then spend time preparing together for your birth.


As your estimated due date approaches

  • We are on call for you 24/7 starting at 38 weeks of pregnancy. We'll set up a group text message with both of us, you, and your partner (if applicable) so everyone is in the loop and easily reachable in preparation for labor. To learn more about what it means for us to be "on call" for the families we support, read this blog post.

  • Update us! At this point, it's hard to give us too much information. You can send us updates after appointments with your care provider, let us know about shifts and changes you may be feeling emotionally or physically, and of course tell us if you're starting to feel contractions.

  • Let us know about any signs labor may be on the way:

    • Loss of mucous plug/bloody show

    • Any consistent contractions (even if they're pretty far apart)

    • Diarrhea/flu-like symptoms

    • Amniotic fluid leaking or releasing with a gush

  • Let us know about changes to your care plan. If your plan of care for birth changes, please let us know, especially if any procedures or medications are suggested to induce labor. If something like this arises, we usually schedule a phone call to get up to speed, talk about your options going forward, and answer any questions that might be coming up for you. If you want to debrief after an appointment with your care provider, just ask!

  • If a cesarean birth is scheduled in advance, you have the option of having us come meet you for pre-op and be there during birth and the first several hours postpartum, or exchanging that time for some extra postpartum support instead.


When labor starts

  • Early labor can last awhile. And by that, we mean anything from hours to days. We'll be keeping in close communication by text when labor begins and can offer suggestions for things you can do to keep your body rested and your mind distracted (one of the best tools in early labor is to ignore it as much as possible!)

  • Don't give labor more attention than it demands. Usually our clients spend time with their partner (if they have one) and try to labor at home for as long as is physically and emotionally comfortable for them. We will be in touch by text and phone to support you from a distance.

  • When something shifts and you find yourself in need of more support than you have available to you at the moment, call us. We'll plan to meet you at home or birth place, wherever you are at the time. We share a call schedule, so whichever one of us is on-call at the time you're ready for us to join you in labor will meet you.

  • We will provide continuous support during labor. Sometimes that means we need to switch places so one doula can relieve the other. This is always done as unobtrusively as possible. We usually like to spend a little time with you together before the other person leaves, just to make sure you're comfortable with everything. Some doulas set a time limit for how many hours they will stay with their clients during birth (sometimes called a "12 hour clause"). We do not include this time limit in our doula contract and instead provide continuous support during labor.

    Read here to learn more about how doulas support partners specifically.

  • We will stay with you for a little while after baby is born. Normally this is between 1-2 hours after birth to support you through the immediate postpartum (which can be quite involved at times), help initiate breastfeeding if that's your goal, and answer any questions you might have. (This is the same for vaginal birth and cesarean birth.)

    To learn more about our role during this period specifically if you're planning to birth in a hospital, check out our blog post: Little-Known Ways a Doula Can Help after Your Hospital Birth.

  • Just a reminder - we support all types of birth without judgment. No matter your preferences regarding pain management, medical procedures, or anything else that might come up during labor and birth, we're here to support you through the process.


After birth

  • We're still your doulas! Get in touch if you have any questions. Many times parents have questions in the first few days after birth - don't be shy! We're here to help.

  • Let us know if you need additional resources. There is a lot of help and support available for new parents in Orange County and Long Beach, and we're always happy to send you our favorite resources if you need them.

  • If you choose one of the birth doula packages that includes postpartum doula support, let us know when you feel ready for that to begin. Some families like to have their first visit in the first week of baby's life, others like to wait a while.

  • If you decide you want to add postpartum doula support, let us know as soon as possible so we can make sure to reserve room in our schedule for you! We'll send you another booking link so you can decide on the number of visits you’d like to have. (And if you’re interested to learn more, here’s a list of reasons why people work with postpartum doulas.)

  • If you find yourself needing additional breastfeeding support, let us know ASAP so Marlee can set up a visit with you. We always try to prioritize lactation support because we know how tough those challenges can be in the moment.

  • We normally allow our clients to take the lead on scheduling our postpartum check-in visit. This can be done pretty soon after birth or a few weeks later - it's up to you! This is typically 1-2 hours and it’s a great chance for us to catch up, for you to ask any questions you might have about baby care, breastfeeding, about something that came up during your birth, etc. It’s a great chance for us to reconnect and wrap up our time together.

  • If you choose the Wraparound Package that includes a delicious in-home postpartum massage, we’ll put you in touch with our amazing massage therapist so you can find a time for her to come over.

  • If you choose the Wraparound Package, let us know whenever you’re ready for your follow-up visit with Marlee at some point in your baby’s first year to work on sleep challenges, preparing to return to work, starting solids, etc. Some families like to have this visit around 6 months, others prefer to wait closer to the one year mark.

  • We will send you an email with an online survey so you can share your thoughts with us about the ways in which we supported you and your family through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

  • Most importantly - let us know how you're doing! We love to hear from our clients, and we never say no to baby pictures!


That's our process from start to finish! We hope this helps you get a better idea of the types of support we can provide throughout pregnancy, birth and early parenting.

Let us know if you have any questions for us, and get in touch today if you want to work with us!

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