The answer is: At any time before, during and after pregnancy.
You can start looking for a doula as soon as you start thinking of having a baby. There is no set time frame to find one, you can even find one right before you give birth if needed, or you can hire a post partum doula in the 6 week post partum period to help you out with housework, dealing with older kids or helping with establishing a good breastfeeding relationship if you choose to breastfeed.
When looking for a doula you want to be sure that you mesh/get along well with your chosen doula, this may mean contacting several doula's during your search to find the right one that suits you. Ask lots of questions, if a doula makes you uncomfortable then don't hire him/her and look for another one. The same applies to if you have found one already but start to have "red flags" show up during meetings, eg. doula doesn't show any interest in your concerns or in helping you with something. Please don't mistake a doula not responding to your contact straight away as a "red flag", we can sometimes be very busy, not only with other clients but also with our own families. As a general rule allow 48 hours after you have emailed, private messaged on facebook, sent a text message or called and left a message before trying to call again unless it is a true emergency, if it is a true emergency contact your health care provider and try calling your doula again in 15-30 minutes, and repeat this for the next hour or so. If you don't hear back from your doula within 7 days however then consider it as a "red flag".
When you make contact with a prospective doula and an introductory meeting is set up and takes place ask lots of questions, find out what his/her limits are, what he/she is comfortable with when it comes to the type of birth that you want - some doula's won't be comfortable in supporting a homebirth even with a midwife in attendance, an unassisted birth, a cesarean birth or other types of birth (eg. induced, lotus, high intervention) depending on their comfort levels and ability to remain impartial when certain subjects that have affected them come up. Doula's who find certain methods of birth uncomfortable find it easier to avoid having to deal with the things that they know they cannot be impartial about by just not taking on a client who intends for their baby to be born in a way that makes the doula uncomfortable, which can be a good thing for a doula to do in some cases so as not to worry his/her clients.
For me personally, I am willing to support women in all forms of Birth.
So now you know when you can start looking for a Doula and what to do when you interview one - happy hunting!
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