If you enjoy helping people, and are fascinated with the process of giving birth, consider learning how to become a doula. Doulas assist women in pregnancy, childbirth, and during the postpartum period to help them manage the changes both physical and mental that go hand in hand with giving birth. These compassionate people are often highly sought after, making this a fast-growing professional field.
What Doulas Do
Doulas assist in nearly all aspects of childbirth, from accompanying pregnant women to their doctor, and helping them find an exercise plan to helping to bring home the baby and assist in the transition to new motherhood. They aren’t midwives, and do not assist in the delivery of the baby, but they are present at the birth and help coach the mother. Many doulas will also act to carry out the mother’s birth plan, speaking to the doctors and nurses on her behalf to ensure that her wishes are acknowledged and met. If at any time during the birth the mother doesn’t understand what’s happening, or wants to know why the doctor has requested something, the doula is on hand to explain and make it easier.
While many doulas will help an expecting mother through all phases of her pregnancy, child birth, and postpartum period that they are requested to, some will also specialize. These doulas will be on hand for very specific times. Some will specialize in becoming post partum doulas. These women have completed a certification course for becoming doulas who assist women after the birth or adoption of a baby. Rather than assisting a laboring mother during childbirth, they come over once the baby is home and help the family adjust to their new life and schedule.
Other doulas will assist heavily during the pregnancy, accompanying a mother to appointments, helping her find the best nutrition or exercise program, and helping her get ready for the birth. These doulas may teach things like yoga for pregnancy, or they may help calm a new mother’s fears about upcoming tests or procedures.
Many doulas assist mothers solely during childbirth. These doulas will accompany the laboring mother and assist her through the process, but beyond a few appointments to get to know one another beforehand, and make sure everything’s well after the birth, they have little contact with the new mother.
Learning How to Become a Doula
While some people may assist their friends and family in the delivery room, and feel that they are qualified to help others, learning how to become a doula is actually a more intensive study process. Doulas need to become certified in order to assist women professionally, and these certifications do require training and study.
There are several different avenues you can pursue in learning how to become a doula. One method is to find a midwife who practices near you. Some midwives will offer internships to women looking to become doulas. While you intern with the midwife, you will also be expected to take classes either through a certification program, or a college that will give you the credentials that you need.
Another method is to simply enroll in a course in becoming a doula. As you near the end of your certification process, put the word out amongst friends and family who may need your services. Once you’ve attended a few births, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect and can plan on assisting other women accordingly.
Completing your certification should be only the first step in your journey to become a doula. Getting an internship or assisting friends and family are a good step toward acquiring the extra knowledge you’ll need to become an outstanding doula.
In practice, you should always be learning and acquiring information to help and assist laboring women. As a professional, women who hire you will be expecting answers and information about potential problems and issues they may face before, during, and after the birth of their child. To become successful as a doula and acquire a large client base, you’ll need to have the information and skills that they’re going to be looking for.
For this reason, it helps to keep up to date on the latest science regarding pregnancy and child birth, and to attend courses such as evidence-based care for suspected big babies so you can give an informed, professional opinion each time it’s asked for. And while doulas are not lactation consultants, many also take courses in breastfeeding to help assist new mothers at the time of birth and in the first few days at home, when they may be unable to get to a lactation center for assistance.
Checking State and Country Regulations
Becoming certified as a doula is always a good idea if you intend to practice. But you should also be aware if the state or country you live in regulates doulas the way that they do midwives. As a doula, you may end up assisting women in child birth both in their homes and at hospitals and birthing centers. Understanding what regulations exist will help ensure you do not get caught in an illegal home birth or get in the way of hospital policies.
Make sure when you get your certification that it is accepted by the state you live in, and that the program you take is reputable, offering lots of mentoring and one on one coaching so you can be sure that you’re getting the support and information you need to succeed. Doula courses taught by midwives or courses that offer internships with midwives will give you plenty of hands on experience, provided that the midwife or course you choose is certified and reputable.
Once you’ve completed your training and have gotten some experience either through an internship or with friends and family, you may want to look into becoming a volunteer doula for your next few clients. Volunteer doulas work for free in order to gain experience and expertise that they can use in future cases.
Some volunteer programs will match you with an expectant mother before the birth so you can get to know one another and begin the process of accompanying her to appointments and exercise if this is the route you intend to take. Other programs will be on an on-call basis, getting in touch with you only when it’s time to head to the hospital so you can get more experience in this end.
Volunteer programs are not only a good way to get more experience as a new doula, they are also a great way for expectant mothers to get the assistance they may need, even when they can’t afford to pay for it.
Begin Your Training Today
Learning how to become a doula is a long and rewarding process. During your journey you’ll meet new people, while gaining a lot of knowledge and skills that you’ll be putting to practical use each and every day. Best of all, you’ll be providing a service that is very much in demand, helping women through a life changing experience. While learning how to become a doula is something that takes a lot of time and effort, many people who have completed the training feel that it was more than worth whatever it was that they put into it. If you think you have what it takes to become a doula, get started by taking some classes or contacting a midwife in your area. You’ll probably find that you’re more than happy that you did.