An online search will give you some very standard questions that mostly ask about the structure of her practice, but they're not very helpful in helping you find out what you really want to know on a deeper level. Here is my guide and some of my own answers to these common questions, as well as my suggestions for interviewing doulas.
Are you certified? Yes, but I attended births before I was certified. I provided excellent service at those early births. I feel I got my stride by birth number 3. I wasn't certified until I had over 15 births. I felt my calling to this work long before I did my certification. Many doulas have varied backgrounds coming into this field and you could find an amazing doula who isn't certified. I know one particular doula with 20+ years experience who chooses to not certify because she was practicing before the certification existed.
Another common question is to ask the doula how many clients she takes a month. What you could ask in addition to that is; do you have back-up and how often do you need back-up? How do your clients respond to your back-up?
Isn't that what you really want to know? Many people assume that the more births a doula takes, the more they worry she may miss their birth. Up to a point, it really doesn't matter. Granted, 10+ births a month would be more likely to have a conflict. But the average doula does 1-7 per month with no problem. And even if it's one birth per month, her client from next month could go early on your due date. In practice, its actually very rare for clients do double up. 2-5 per month is average.
Whether or not she is a high volume doula, she could still miss your birth. Maybe she has a conflict like some emergency with a family member. We all make every effort to attend our births. A better question I would ask is, what would you miss a birth for, and/or what have you missed a birth for, and how often does that happen?
Are you available for my due date? OK, this question is actually really important, but you should clear it before you set up a time to meet in person.
Then the next one, how many births have you attended? Cost? and do you have children? I get it, but what you mean is, "do you have enough experience to know what you are doing?" See if you can get the answer to the latter, because that is what you really want to know. While experience of course counts, there are jems at all levels of experience. A newer, less experienced doula will have an incredible excitement and enthusiasm about attending your birth. That energy can be more important to you than whether or not she knows how to gently work with a cranky L&D nurse, or if she knows that when the doctor asks for lidocaine during pushing, they're planning to do an episiotomy. A more experienced doula has been more thoroughly tested, knows her way around the L&D floor, the terminology, the techniques and has proven herself to be reliable and skilled in her field, and therefore much more expensive. A doula with children may also be more expensive to help her cover the cost of childcare--a fair trade-off considering most people want a doula with children. There are also many wonderful doulas without children. Consider the fact that just because she doesn't have children, doesn't mean she has never been pregnant or given birth. And a doula without children has often had to work harder to prove herself in this rare field that favors mothers.
The right doula for you is priceless. But we of course have budget constraints. Only interview doulas you can afford so that you are comfortable with whomever you hire. Some people are surprised to learn how expensive some doulas are. But if you figure the hours involved; training, continuing education, interview, prenatals, postpartums, travel time, labor and delivery could be 10-60 hours, plus being on-call 24/7...even the most expensive doulas are a bargain. It would be better if insurance covered our fee. We are the least expensive professional attending your birth, and usually putting in the most hours. I encourage people to file a claim with your insurance company for your doula. They probably won't pay for it, but it will send the message to them that this is what consumers want. Then hopefully the next generation will have better access to this care.
Have you worked with my caregiver before? This may or may not be helpful. Whenever I am working with a new provider, I research them with other doulas so I have some understanding of what to expect. Next, if your doctor is part of a practice, they may not be at your birth, and even if they are, they are only in the room briefly. If your provider and doula meet for the first time at your birth, we can still be a great team.
So then what do you ask a doula at the interview??? Ask her what you really want to ask her. Only you can decipher what you need from a doula. There is no one best doula for everyone, but there is the best doula for you. Make the interview social, because your relationship will potentially become extremely intimate. Set the meeting at a comfortable place, so its an enjoyable exercise in paying attention to your pregnancy. Before the interview think about what your philosophies on birth, women and medicine. Share those opinions with her and see what she says. Look inside and ask yourself what your real questions are. Listen to your own voice, maybe you want to ask her something personal. Maybe you just want to share your fears and concerns and she how she responds to that. Everyone woman has her unique journey with her birth and her unique needs. The interview lets you feel out if this is the woman you want to help guide you on that journey. ;)