A doula, sometimes called a birth coach or maternity assistant, provides non-medical support to pregnant women and their families before, during, and after the birth of a baby. Such services have been offered by professionals and volunteers for centuries in cultures across the world. A doula might provide services varying from detailed classes about pregnancy and birth, to massaging the hips of a woman in labor to ease the pain of contractions, to helping babysit a post-partum mother’s older children while she recovers. Demand is increasing for this rewarding profession, and the recommended training and certification is relatively easy.
Since a doula is not a licensed medical or health professional, there are no laws barring anyone from working as a doula without any training or certification. However, the techniques and ethics of both the professional and volunteer doula are time-honored, and anyone with interest in becoming a doula should invest the effort to learn to do it properly. There are several organizations that offer doula certification according to international standards. Training includes classes, required reading, hands-on workshops, and mentorship.
A standard doula training program will consist of an intensive course, usually 15 to 20 hours of class time over the course of a weekend. The core of any good doula training is shadowing experienced doulas and assisting them at births, usually at least 3 to 5. Some programs require participants to read important books on the subject of birth and pregnancy, write essays, or keep personal logs. A person can expect to pay between $300 and $500 in fees to complete their doula certification. A doula’s salary varies greatly: Some doulas are strictly volunteers while some charge over $1000 dollars for their services.
There is considerable flexibility in the doula profession. Most doulas specialize in pregnancy and birth support, but some focus on post-partum services as well. Some even assist women who are seeking abortion and help them though the emotional stress of terminating a pregnancy. Some doulas are experts at balancing hospital protocols with advocating for the laboring mother’s needs and desires, while others specialize in guiding women through home-births with a midwife. Whatever the niche, more and more women are seeking out trustworthy doulas to help them have the safest and easiest birth possible.