Today is the sixth post in the occasional series, “Doula Me This!” Each post in the series provides a common scenario that a birth or postpartum (or both) doula may face. The “correct” answer (if there is one) requires some synthesis of the situation and at times consideration of DONA International’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

Today’s dilemma is based on a birth or postpartum doula needing backup for their clients. After reading the situation below, let us know in the blog comments section how you would handle this in your own practice? Have you faced this situation?  How did you handle it?

Doula Me This!

You have recently moved to a new area and are now in the process of booking clients and rebuilding your business in your new town. You have not yet established or found a backup doula to cover your clients in case you are at another birth, ill or have a family emergency.

The Details

You are an experienced and successful birth and/or postpartum doula who has just relocated to a new city. You are starting to build up your business in this new spot. Interviews for birth and postpartum work are flowing in and happily, you are booking clients. You have begun to make inroads in connecting with the doula community in your new location but have not yet found birth or postpartum backup to cover you if you are not able to attend a client.

The Dilemma

You know that it is your responsibility as a doula to provide backup to your clients if you are unable to attend their birth or support them during a scheduled postpartum shift. DONA International’s Code of Ethics for birth doulas and postpartum doulas reads:

Reliability. When the doula agrees to work with a particular client, his/her obligation is to do so reliably, without fail, for the term of the agreement.”

Simply put, you cannot assure your clients that they will have a backup doula if needed.  You are making every effort to rectify this situation but there is no backup birth or postpartum doulas in place at this time and may not be for the foreseeable future. You know it is important to be honest and upfront with your clients prior to hire and during the time you serve your clients. You are also very clear that you don’t want to misrepresent the circumstances in which you are operating your business currently.

What would you do?

Being a doula is how you support yourself financially, so not working while you establish a backup system is not feasible. Some potential (and booked) clients are inquiring about this issue and others have not brought it up. You are not sure how you should be sharing this information, in interviews and once hired? Being new to the area, you are not familiar with other birth professionals and worry about finding the right fit and a reliable fit. Should you offer a backup contract to the doulas you are hoping to utilize, especially starting off? How will that be received? You are always mindful of being professional, ethical and abiding by your DONA International’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. While you have not needed your backup very frequently in the past, there have been situations that required a backup. Doulas, what do you do? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.