Childbirth is a breathtaking experience and many people are drawn to help new mothers and babies during this very special, yet extraordinarily difficult, time in their lives. There are many types of providers who offer maternal-fetal care, including obstetricians, labor and delivery nurses, nurse midwives, and doulas. They each provide different forms of care, helping to meet the many needs of a mother and baby going through the birth process. Becoming a doula is one of the fastest ways to begin a career helping mothers and babies during birth and requires the least amount of medical training. It can be an exciting, rewarding, and lucrative career for individuals who have a strong desire to provide service to new mothers going through labor and delivery. Here’s what you need to know about how to become a doula.
You may have heard of the term “birth doula” or “doula” in academic texts, literature, and even online childbirth forums. Here’s what you should know about what doulas do and how to differentiate them from other care providers.
According to WebMD, a doula is “a person who provides emotional and physical support during pregnancy and childbirth.” Often considered a birth companion, labor assistant, or birth coach, a doula supports a woman giving birth by providing continuous care during labor. They’re unable to provide medical care or deliver babies, however, they can help laboring mothers have a more positive and empowering birth experience.
They assist the mother physically and emotionally during birth, remaining completely focused on only the mother’s needs. Whereas family members may be distracted or have other things going on during the birth, a doula’s job is only to facilitate the type of birth experience desired by the expecting mother. Doulas can also help advocate for their patients, especially in cases where the mother may be unable to ask questions or voice concerns.
The word “doula” comes from the Greek language, and it means “a woman who serves.” Pregnant mothers often hire doulas to be with them during the birth because they fill a role that other providers aren’t able to fully fill.
A doula helps meet the non-medical needs of a woman giving birth. Doulas:
During birth, a doula will:
A doula does not have medical training, so they are unable to provide the same kind of care that a nurse practitioner, midwife, or obstetrician is able to. While a doula can work with medical providers to plan and facilitate a mother’s care during birth, they cannot administer medications, perform diagnostic tests, or deliver the baby. These activities are limited to medical professionals in varying degrees; nurse midwives may not be able to administer medications while nurse practitioners can, however, nurse practitioners cannot perform Caesarean sections as an obstetrician would.
However, birth doulas do provide a very valuable service that other providers cannot; the mother’s need for emotional comfort and unwavering support during labor and delivery is often underestimated. Many mothers and fathers can’t seem to justify the additional expense of hiring a doula, especially when they feel like a family member can probably offer the same kind of service.
However, family members often lack the skills and experience to be a strong support for the mother during birth. They may become squeamish at the sight of blood or get upset if the situation becomes dangerous for the mother or baby. Or, something may come up, and they’re unable to attend the birth. A doula, on the other hand, is a professional and can handle a wide variety of stressful situations that arise during birth. Doulas are reliable and take their role seriously, making them a true asset to have during labor.
You may be confident that working with new mothers and their babies is what you want to do, but there are many career paths that will get you there. How do you know if being a doula is the right choice for you?
Becoming a doula is challenging but rewarding work. It can be physically demanding, as a doula must help a laboring mother get into different birthing positions, and may also require massage, running errands, and doing other physical tasks. Whether at home, a hospital, or a birthing center, a doula must be present with the mother during the entire labor, however long that may be, so it’s important to have good stamina. It’s not uncommon for labors to last over 24 hours, and doulas need to be able to be there for all of it. Doulas should also have a strong desire to work with people and have a caring, compassionate attitude towards patients. They need to be able to stay calm in high-stress situations and should be comfortable with the different types of medical procedures that can take place during birth.
Like most jobs, a doula’s salary differs greatly between geographical regions. Pay is also affected by how much training a doula has and if he or she has a certificate, as well as how much experience the doula has and how many births he or she has attended. According to the International Doula Institute, doulas can earn between $1,600-2,000 per birth. If a doula averages about four births a month, this equates to roughly an $86,000 annual salary.
Essentially, birth doulas are always on call. Regardless of the time of day or night that labor starts, a doula must be able to be present when needed. A doula may arrive at the mother’s home and help her labor until she’s ready to go to the hospital or birthing center, and then accompany her for the remainder of the birthing process. The hours are almost never predictable and often require plans to be rescheduled on very short notice. It’s important that individuals considering learning how to become a doula have a great deal of flexibility in their schedule.
Healthcare jobs are on the rise across every specialty, including obstetrics. As women seek more comfortable, customized, and meaningful birth experiences, doulas are becoming more widely used among expectant mothers. Doulas can work in a variety of capacities, most often as a doula business owner and solo practitioner that can practice anywhere, including home births, but they may be employed by hospitals and birthing centers.
If you’ve decided to learn how to become a doula, the next step is to get an education and then, a job. Here’s how.
Usually, a birth doula needs to complete 7-12 hours of childbirth instruction, 16 hours of doula education, and be present for at least two births. Certificate courses to become a doula business owner range from four to twelve weeks long, with the average being about six weeks.
Doula training workshops and certificate courses vary widely in cost. They can range anywhere from just under $100 to $2,000-$3,000. The cost of a doula workshop or certificate course doesn’t necessarily reflect its quality; high-priced seminars are often dressed up and well-advertised but contain the same core information on how to be a doula. It’s important that individuals considering being a doula compare and contrast multiple education programs to find the best fit.
Doulas can practice in many ways. Birthing centers, for example, often employ doulas and midwives to assist during birth versus traditional medical practitioners. Some hospitals may employ doulas, however, not usually to assist women during birth. More often, doulas in hospitals teach childbirth classes and provide other similar services to expecting mothers.
Most doulas are considered solo practitioners and aren’t employed by anyone. They own their own business, which can be as simple as charging a modest fee for services or as complex as operating a company with multiple employees. They attend births anywhere, including in hospitals, birthing centers, and at the family’s home. The types of jobs available are often dictated by the geographical region; smaller or more rural areas are less likely to have a wide variety of opportunities for doulas than larger cities with more progressive healthcare.
Starting a business as a doula can be an extremely rewarding and lucrative career path. You maintain control over the cases you accept and to a degree, your overall schedule. If, for example, you wanted to take a month off, you simply wouldn’t accept new cases who were due during that month. Owning your own business also allows you to offer customized care to laboring mothers and to employ progressive techniques as it feels right for you.
Along with owning a doula business comes entrepreneurial responsibility; something that many people find challenging. Self-employed taxes, business expenses, and more can be difficult to navigate on your own. If you’re considering learning how to become a doula business owner, it’s crucial that you explore education workshops and certificate programs that provide a curriculum specifically designed to help you start a doula business.
Are you considering learning how to be a doula? We can help. At IAP Career College, we offer a comprehensive Doula Business Owner Certificate Course Online that can help you get started on the path to becoming a doula and owning your own doula business.