Guide to Hiring a Virtual Doula
You've worked hard at your career for years, but now it's time to start your family. The thing is, you don't have time to go down the scroll-hole of pregnancy and birth information that Google is offering. And the idea of taking a birth class with other people isn't your jam at all.
If you're looking for discrete prenatal education and support, you should consider a virtual doula.
A doula is a person who has taken special training to support pregnant, birthing and postpartum people. In general, doulas are not regulated health professionals, but they follow best practices to support you as needed. For instance, a birth doula will support you during your entire labor and delivery and typically does a postpartum visit, too.
A virtual doula can provide emotional and informational support to you during pregnancy, regarding birth and during postpartum.
But what does that really mean?
As a virtual doula who is also a L&D and postpartum nurse and a Lamaze teacher, it means that I can provide private virtual birth classes for you and your partner, help you navigate communications with your birth team, plan your cesarean and recovery and even help you with early breastfeeding issues.
I get it. Hiring a doula that you've never met in person can feel a little weird, but once you realize some of the benefits you may change your mind.
Reason #1- LEARNING BIRTH OPTIONS
As someone who's worked in the birth world for over 25 years, I can't stress enough how important it is to learn about your options for birth. I always say that creating a birth plan is more about learning what your options are than making a rigid plan. It's also a way to tell your doctors, nurses and support people how you envision your birth.
Reason #2- ADVOCATING FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY
Birth classes should be about more than just breathing and positioning to cope with labor (I teach all of that, too!). You need to know what to expect when you're offered interventions in the hospital and the rationale behind them. After all, an informed decision can only be made when you're aware of all the pro's and cons of any treatment or procedure- I can teach you how to communicate with your birth team to make sure you're asking the right questions.
Something you may be surprised to hear is that a lot of people just do what the nurses and doctors tell them to do because 'they know what's best' or 'it's hospital procedure'. Nobody knows what's best for you but you, Mama.
Reason #3- CONFIDENTIAL PRENATAL SUPPORT
I can't speak for every doula, but because I'm also a nurse there are laws about maintaining patient confidentiality. And while you're not receiving 'nursing' care when you hire me as a virtual doula, some habits are hard to break.
There are lots of pregnant people who need someone to confide in- whether it's health issues, for you or the baby or even just that you're a private person. Knowing that you've got a trust-worthy professional to reach out to is the key to a healthy pregnancy for many!
Having a baby isn't always a happy experience for a lot of people, whether it was intended or not. You may not feel safe or comfortable talking about those feelings with your family or friends so hiring a virtual doula like me can really help you decompress.
Reason #4- ADVICE AND GUIDANCE
Can I tell you the truth? Those motherly instincts don't kick in for everyone instantly. There are soooo many changes happening with your body and your emotions that it can be hard to navigate it all. It can also make you feel a little crazy! That's when you can schedule a call with a virtual doula to chat about it. I give my clients my cell number so they can text me, too.
Also, when it comes to pregnancy, birth and postpartum there is a lot of bad information online. As a virtual doula, I give you only facts based on science and studies.
Other than not providing physical support during labor, there really isn't that much of a difference. Although birth doulas are a brilliant resource for birthing families, not everyone wants someone they don't really know to touch them when they're in labor.
As a doula, I believe strongly that everyone who wants doula support during their birth should have one. But you know what? Even though I'm a doula with four kids of my own, I didn't feel drawn to having anyone else at my births. For some, it feels stressful to have extra bodies in the room when a baby is born. It's a very intimate experience, so if you feel the same way- you're my people!
However, when I was pregnant I was all about information and preparing myself for the hospital so I would've hired a virtual doula if that was a thing back then.
As I mentioned earlier, doulas take a course to learn how to best support birthing people. Whether they're certified or not, they're not regulated health professionals.
I've been a birth and postpartum doula for about 18 years, a nurse for 21 years and a Lamaze teacher for about 10 years. That's 49 years of clinical experience and education. Offering my doula services in the online space was intentional and I started the shift about five years ago when I started my digital business, MamaSoup.
I didn't shift my practice due to the pandemic. I was already offering online services before 2020.
The reason I'm pointing this out is because many birth workers started offering virtual doula services to pivot their businesses in March 2020, even though they may not have the experience necessary to support people in that manner. It takes very keen assessment skills and active listening to offer impactful virtual doula services.
Basically, anyone with a computer and cellphone can call themselves a virtual doula, so be sure to ask lots of questions and shop around!
Basically, it's never too early or too late to hire virtual doula support.
I usually recommend that people take a birthing class around 30 weeks, but if you're a person who needs extra support you can hire a virtual doula while you're trying to conceive or in very early pregnancy.
If your pregnancy is higher risk and you end up on bedrest or in the hospital, hiring a virtual doula like me is an excellent way to take your prenatal class and learn wellness tips to stay calm and healthy.
I provide my doula clients with resources like: custom meditations and guided relaxations, birth affirmations and journalling prompts.
It's never too late to hire a virtual doula. Some people have a completely uncomplicated pregnancy and suddenly find out they need to schedule a cesarean. I have a prenatal class that is all about preparing for a booked c-section and what to expect before and after your birth.
I always tell my clients to plan their postpartum before the baby comes along. I help them do this by providing a postpartum planning guide. We've got one for vaginal birth or one for cesarean and it helps you have a less chaotic postpartum period when you get home from the hospital.
But sometimes people feel completely overwhelmed when they take the baby home. They're in pain, not breastfeeding well, feeling inadequate or confused and they need someone to guide them. As a virtual doula, I can help you with a lot of postpartum stress- I've even got a video library for post-cesarean recovery, so you know what's normal and when to call the doctor!
You know that old saying, "ya get what ya pay for"? In the doula world, education and experience usually dictates how much virtual doula services cost.
Here in Canada, most virtual doulas offer multiple packages for their online clients and they're featured on their websites.
For instance, you may find private virtual prenatal classes for $250 but they don't offer any other services. Or you may find they offer prenatal classes and postpartum support through talk and text plans for $500.
Hiring me as a virtual doula
I'll be the first to admit that I charge what I'm worth, not what other people are charging.
As someone with 49 years of combined experience and education supporting pregnant, birthing and new moms, I charge $120 per hour for consultations. After a comprehensive interview, I create a package to suit your needs. People with less experience probably charge less and offer less than that.
I take prenatal education seriously: I have online classes that are available online (self-paced or I can personally teach them to you).
These classes include:
- Vaginal hospital birth class
- Cesarean prenatal class
- How to push your baby out without tearing
- Postpartum video library for recovering from cesarean
I use professionally created guides and downloads to solidify what you're learning so you can put it to practical use. You can reach me by email, talk or text and we can always Zoom!
My full prenatal package includes:
- four hours of Zoom prenatal calls (can be used for teaching a class or answering questions)
- access to all of my prenatal and postpartum online courses, in-depth guides, tip sheets and checklists
- talk and text support, as needed
- a 1hr virtual postpartum check-in
- full talk and text for 1 month postpartum
- access to my anonymous social support network for moms and health professionals for ongoing support
I charge $1400 CAD for the above package and it's customizable to suit your needs. You'll notice that I don't advertise my doula services on my website because I require an interview to be certain that we are a good match to work together. This is not an "add to cart" type of service!
If you're curious to learn more, book a free discovery call to chat about how I can support you:
Can you find a cheaper virtual doula? Absolutely.
In fact, if you're concerned about the cost of virtual doula services I'm probably not the best solution for you. But there are plenty of others that will help support you.
Virtual doula services are a valuable resource for people who have little time to scour the internet for information, no desire to lay on the floor doing heavy breathing with strangers and who want access to someone with the education and experience a doula has. Be careful about who you hire and make sure you're not buying into a one-size-fits-all program that won't benefit you. And finally, rest easy knowing that you've got a professional birth consultant at the ready, to answer your burning questions and cheer you on.
Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup
Hey there, I’m Joanne.
I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!
As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.
Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!