As a doula, you provide physical and emotional support and guidance to women during and after labor. Unlike obstetricians, nurses and midwives, doulas don’t receive formal obstetric training, and they don’t perform clinical duties. The role does require training, and in some cases certification, especially if you’re hoping to work with a hospital or birth center.
There are two main types of doulas: birth and postpartum. A birth doula assists mothers during labor, helping them with breathing, positioning and relaxation, while a postpartum doula offers support with the newborn’s care.
If you’re interested in becoming a birth doula, you’ll need to attend childbirth education and breastfeeding classes, as well as observe a certain number of births. Typically, you’ll need to complete up to 12 hours of childbirth education and 16 hours of birth doula training and attend two to five births. During training, you’ll learn practical hands-on techniques, as well as the benefits of doula support and why it’s so important for families.
To become a postpartum doula, you will need to learn about home visitation, as well as how to care for infants and moms. This usually requires about 27 hours of training, in addition to assisting at least two women with postpartum support. Doula workshops also offer advice on finding clients and starting your own business.
You can attend workshops and classes through training programs and childbirth education organizations, such as DONA International and International Childbirth Education Association. Choosing the best program for you will depend on your birth philosophy, your budget, your schedule and your educational needs. For example, do you need to learn labor support skills? You may want to chat with others who have taken classes through a specific program or organization to help you make a decision.
Also, some programs include certification in the cost, others may require an additional charge to apply to be certified. While you don’t need to be certified to work as a doula, certification does lend a level of credibility to you among clients, plus it can open up more job opportunities, particularly if you’re looking to work with a hospital or birth center.
In terms of salary, your income as a doula can vary, depending on your location, your experience and how many hours you work. According to the International Doula Institute, birth doulas in cities like Los Angeles and New York charge about $1,600 to $2,000 per birth. In smaller towns, they typically charge between $600 and $1,200. As for postpartum doulas, fees can range from $35 to $65 an hour in larger cities to $25 to $35 an hour in smaller towns. But doulas usually consider the actual work the biggest reward.