Doula Backups - Explained

One question that usually comes up during interviews is "what happens if you're sick, or at another birth, or labor goes on for days?" It's really an excellent question, and one that took me quite a long time to wrap my head around when I first started working as a doula. Below I'll do my best to explain all the ins and outs of backup doulas and what we do to make sure that you always have support, no matter what the crazy circumstance!

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

Designated backup for every client.

If you hire me as your doula, I will give you the name and phone number of your backup doula about 4-6 weeks before your estimated due date. I have several doulas that I work with as backup; they are people that I trust to be there if we need them, and people that generally align with my philosophy and style so that I know they'll be a good fit for my clients.

I'll share your contact information and some basic information about your birth plan with your backup doula, so that if they do need to attend your birth, they'll be well prepared to support your plan.

If, for any reason, you need support and can't get a hold of me, you can call your backup doula directly. Hopefully this will never ever happen, but I think it's nice to have a plan just in case!

When would we need to call on your backup doula?

Illness (cold, flu, etc.) is one of the most common reasons to call in a backup doula. For obvious reasons, attending a birth with a very new little baby when sick is not a good idea for anyone involved. Family emergencies are another reason to call on backup - if a family member were to pass away, I would give you a call to let you know which days I needed to be out of town for the funeral and call the backup to be on "extra high alert" for that time frame.

Another common reason to call on your backup doula is if you have a very long labor. This hasn't happened to me yet, but I can imagine how there could be a point during a very long labor (days) when I no longer feel that I'm able to be helpful. So far, I've been able to take naps and breaks and haven't needed to totally tap out of a birth. But I do think it's important for doulas to recognize that there may come a point when it's better for everyone to call in a backup rather than trying to trudge through it.

Lastly, you should call your backup doula if you can't get a hold of me, for any reason. I hope hope hope this never happens, but it could. And it makes me feel better to know that you have another person to call for support if anything terrible like my phone malfunctioning were to happen.

How do doulas go on vacation? Or go out of town?

Honestly, this is something I'm still trying to figure out. But my current strategy is to plan vacations far in advance, before I have any clients booked in that timeframe. That way, if I interview with a client who's due around my vacation, I can let them know when I'm planning to be out of town and they can decide for themselves whether they're comfortable with that.

If I do have a planned outage near someone's estimated due date, I set up a meeting with the backup doula and client to make sure that they're comfortable working together since the likelihood of the backup attending the birth is a bit higher! And I always tell clients that if they aren't comfortable with the backup, we will arrange for a different one.

If I am not on-call, I may go on a small trip to Chicago or Spring Green here and there, but I will let my clients know before I go to make sure that they're comfortable.

What if you go into labor early?

I am generally available for my clients, even if they were to go into labor before 38 weeks (that's when my on-call period starts for clients). But if I'm not available for some reason, we would call on your backup. If you go into labor before 36 weeks and I haven't yet identified a backup for you, I have a phone tree of doula friends and I will call down the list until we find someone to support you.

Unexpected things happen, and sometimes life gets crazy. But it is one of my top priorities as your doula to make sure that you have the support you need, and I will do my very best to make sure that happens.


Claire Baker Madison Doula

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