A doula offers emotional and physical support to women before, during, and after pregnancy. Doulas do not offer medical services but do oversee their client’s birthing plan and educate women throughout their pregnancy to ensure their plan is followed successfully. They also work with other healthcare professionals such as midwives, nurses, and doctors.
How to Become a Doula
Step 1: Get Trained
To become a doula, you’ll need to educate yourself on all aspects of the pregnancy experience to include how to help a woman directly after she gives birth. There are certification programs offered by organizations such as Childbirth International (link opens in a new tab) or DONA International (link opens in a new tab). Some colleges offer courses on campus or online as well.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Along with training, you’ll also want to gain hands-on experience to become a doula. To do this, you may consider volunteering your time with a more experienced doula to gain experience. You’ll become experienced working with other members of the family (such as children) as they prepare for a new baby as well.
Step 3: Market your Services
If you decide to become a self-employed doula, you’ll need to gain clients in your area. Learning how to market your services will be extremely important. You may need set up a website (or pay someone to help you with that), brand yourself, network, and advertise. You’ll also need to ensure each client has a good experience working with you as word of mouth referrals are also vital to your business.
Job Description of a Doula
A doula has a variety of duties depending on the extent of her involvement with the mother. Before a client’s pregnancy takes place, doulas may help locate and recommend quality healthcare providers that will support their client throughout their pregnancy. They will also work with their client to craft a tailored birthing plan to include the best location to deliver their baby. Doula’s ultimately focus on the ways to give the best advantage for a successful delivery and healthy newborn. Doula’s also also get to know their client’s family in order to help them feel more confident with the transition of having a new baby in the house.
During the delivery process, a doula tries to make their client as comfortable as possible to make the delivery process a positive experience. They provide emotional support and may also massage their client’s back and neck and help hold her up during the delivery. After the delivery (postpartum), the doula may also need to educate new mothers on how to breast feed and hold their baby. They may also support their client by preparing some of the meals or to do light housework so the mother can rest and have more bonding time with her newborn.
Doula’s are compassionate, good listeners, educators, and motivators. They should be physically able to do this job as it requires strength to physically help a woman during childbirth. Organization and management skills are important to ensure a birthing plan is followed successfully. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) posted a study titled, Modeling the Cost-Effectiveness of Doula Care Associated with Reductions in Preterm Birth and Cesarean Delivery. This study found that a doula’s services “lower cesarean rates and fewer obstetric interventions, fewer complications, less pain medication, shorter labor hours, higher infant APGAR scores, and also shows potential for reducing racial-ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in breastfeeding initiation.”
Kozhimannil, K. B., Hardeman, R. R., Alarid-Escudero, F., Vogelsang, C. A., Blauer-Peterson, C., & Howell, E. A. (2016). Modeling the Cost-Effectiveness of Doula Care Associated with Reductions in Preterm Birth and Cesarean Delivery. Birth (Berkeley, Calif.), 43(1), 20-7.