Most doulas offer personalised, one to one birth preparation sessions during pregnancy. During these meetings you will also have the opportunity to talk through any previous birth experiences you may wish to share, which can be very helpful when planning a birth to be different to last time. This is an important time to help you to get to know your doula, and they you, and build up a trusted relationship.
Your doula may also offer a service where you can contact them between these meetings to ask questions or to talk through concerns. Ask them before booking what their policy is on this. Having this friendly and supportive support can make a dramatic difference to your pregnancy.
Your doula can help you to manage interactions with the hospital, helping you to prepare for meetings with clinical staff, if you choose to have them, so that you can get the most out of each midwifery or obstetric appointment that you have.
Your doula can help you to prepare your birth plan, guided by you and your wishes. Doulas should never try to encourage you one way or another, but should support every type of birth (or, if they don’t, they should be completely honest about that before they’re booked so you can decide whether that’s right for you). Having someone on your side who is impartial, and won’t try to coerce you into something that you don’t want can be invaluable and very empowering.
Your doula will go ‘on call’ for you, usually 2-3 weeks before you are 40 weeks pregnant until 2-3 weeks after. During this time she or he will ensure that they are available to get to you, or the hospital, within an agreed period of time. You will need to agree with your doula when the on call period will be, and, if you are likely to have a premature baby, or a longer than average pregnancy, you may wish to discuss whether they are able to be flexible with the time they’re on call for you.