I always encourage my clients and friends alike to research their care provider's stats. As in, how often do they induce, what is their cesarean rate, etc? (This is also helpful to learn about their place for birth, which has fortunately become easy to find out.)
In the past year or so, I have been asked more and more about my rates as a doula. As in, what percentage of my clients have epidurals? What percent have cesarean births? And so on.
There's really nothing wrong with this question, and I happily answer as I keep decent records of the births I attend. But what you may not realize is that these "stats" don't necessarily tell you anything about the person you're interviewing. It may give you limited information about the kinds of births the doula has attended, but seeing how medical decisions are 100% out of our hands, you may be surprised to learn that stats don't dictate how effective a doula will be for you.
Now granted, if a doula has attended 10 births and 8 have been cesareans, I would want to know a few more details as there are many factors that may influence this kind of rate: does she regularly assist in higher risk labors? Does she get a lot of referrals from care providers with high c-section rates themselves? Did she just have a string of strange outcomes that required the surgery? Regardless, are you comfortable with her limited experience with vaginal birth?
I would be less inclined, however, to inquire about her epidural rate, as this really tells you nothing at all about how "good" a doula is. The vast majority of women giving birth today plan on having an epidural at some point during their labor, and while a person hiring a doula is less likely to plan for that option, families hire doulas for many different reasons. In other words, there is no reason to assume that a doula with a 70% epidural rate is a "bad doula." You may, however, have questions about her lack of experience supporting folks through natural births, which is a legitimate concern.
One thing to remember when hiring a doula is that no topic is taboo. It's your birth, and you deserve to find a doula that you are comfortable with! But keep in mind what questions tell you and what they might not, and if you want additional detail, just ask! We're always happy to offer some insight, even when you haven't hired us yet.
Speaking of sharing... in the interest of transparency, my stats:
(As of 2/13/13)
In the births I have attended:
- 58.8% were first time mamas
- 33.3% opted to have epidurals
- 25% were induced
- 8.3% were cesarean births
- 16.6% were born in water
- Shortest gestation was 38w 0d
- Longest was 42w 2d
- Shortest labor was 2.5 hours from start to finish (45 minutes with doula in attendance)
- Longest was 30+ hours (27 hours with doula in attendance)
- Smallest baby was 5lb 14oz
- Largest was 8lb 15oz
- All babies healthy
- All mamas an inspiration