Doula Training and Careers
Learn How to Become a Doula and Get Doula Training
A doula provides information, physical and emotional support, and advocacy for women and their partners during and after the birth process. Unlike other practitioners such as obstetricians, nurses, and midwives, those with doula training do not give medical advice or have clinical duties. However, they provide critical support and assistance during labor and birth, making the process easier for the midwife and the mother-to-be.
Doula Career Overview
"Doula" is a word coined from ancient Greek, meaning "a woman who serves." And whether a doula is male or female, that is what a professional with doula training does—helps the mother and her family during birth or the postpartum period.
A birth doula provides emotional support during labor and assists with breathing, positioning and relaxation. A postpartum doula supports the entire family during the transition of caring for a new baby, providing education and information as well as newborn care and household assistance. Doulas may be hired directly by clients, they may work for a clinic or hospital, or they may be volunteers.
Doula Training and Education
What You'll Study in Doula School
If you're wondering how to become a doula, the answer is easy: certification and doula training. A birth doula must attend childbirth education, breastfeeding and birth doula classes, as well as observe a specified number of births. A postpartum doula also studies principles of home visitation and how to care for infants and mothers. Both types of doula will learn about cultural diversity, ethics and business practices.
Average Length of Doula Study
Typically, a birth doula needs to finish 7 to 12 hours of childbirth education, 16 hours of birth doula training, and attend at two to five births. A postpartum doula usually attends about 27 hours of postpartum doula education and assists two or more women with postpartum support. Some distance learning programs are available.
Average Doula School Tuition
Childbirth education and doula training courses generally cost between $300 and $500 total. There may also be additional expenses associated with breastfeeding classes, reading materials, organization membership, and certification fees.
Doula certification is available from doula training programs and childbirth education organizations, such as DONA International or Birth Arts International. Though it's not always required, certification can open up a wider range of job opportunities and instill confidence in your clients. In particular, if you are looking for work with a hospital or birth center, you will need to hold appropriate professional credentials.
Doula Career Outlook
The career forecast is positive for those with doula training. Midwives and nurse-midwives are in increasing demand, with the practice of nurse-midwifery legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The American College of Nurse-Midwives reports that 11.2% of all non-Cesarean births in 2005 were attended by nurse-midwives, and these numbers are growing. DONA International, which is just one of several professional doula organizations, has nearly 6,000 members in the United States alone.
A doula's salary varies greatly depending on geographic location, how much training and experience you have, and how many hours of work you do per week. However, fees for birth doulas generally run between $250 and $1000. A postpartum doula makes $10.00 to $35.00 an hour, although some may earn as much as $60.00 per hour.
Is a Doula Career Right for You?
If you're wondering how to become a doula, consider the following: You'll need to be caring and knowledgeable, but you'll also need to be flexible—like a doctor on call, you might be needed at any hour of the day or night. Doula training can also be physically and emotionally demanding. But it can be incredibly rewarding to help a woman achieve a smooth and comfortable transition into motherhood.
American College of Nurse-Midwives, 2011
Birth Arts International, 2009
Childbirth International, 2010
DONA International, 2011
Expert Q&A, Pregnancy Today, 2011
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