Nearly anyone who may be interested in becoming a doula can do so, no special pre-requisites are required. If you have a passion for birth and want to help improve the birth scene in your area you should consider becoming a certified doula. You will need to take a specific training, read a certain number of birth related books from an approved reading list, consider the tools you will need to fill your doula bag, figure out childcare; someone who can come tend to your children with little to no notice if necessary, and prepare to be on your feet for many hours at a time – sometimes even days. The costs vary from some to a lot, average is close to one thousand dollars by time everything is said and done. Travel fees, cost of books and other training materials, attire, a doula bag and comfort measure items you will need can quickly add up. It can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete all the requirements for certification depending on the program and your dedication.
There are dozens of agencies and organizations out there for an inspiring doula to sift through and find the one for them to train and certify with. Find the organization that has a mission statement that you align your birth philosophy with. Some trainings require in-person workshops be attended, usually held over the course of a weekend. Others allow for all the training to be completed through their online program. Prices all vary depending on the organization or agency. Some are more affordable at four to six hundred dollars; while others can surpass one thousand dollars. Once you have signed up for a training you should begin reading the required books that are necessary for your certification. If you take an online certification you can begin your studies right away. These usually include lots of reading and taking some quizzes followed by two small book reports, a childbirth education class evaluation and then attending a required number of births – usually two or three births. The online reading will consist of learning about the physiology of pregnancy, labor and birth. This is also where you will learn about how to physically and emotionally to best support a laboring mom. You will learn the variations of normal in regards to labor, birth, placentas and newborns. During an in-person workshop these things are gone over in a much shorter time frame but you get the chance to practice comfort measures on other trainees.
After you have completed your training you will need to find clients for your required certifying births. It is advised to charge when seeking these certifying births, even if not as much as you would if you were certified but something to cover the costs you will have. The easiest way to do this is to talk to expecting friends or family members. You can advertise online or locally as well. It’s up to you. Your training agency should supply you with sample contracts that you can edit and use. It’s important to have contracts so that everyone knows their role and what is or isn’t expected of them. You will need to meet with your clients at least one time prenatally so that you can learn their desires for their birth. You should practice comfort measures and learn what each mom might, or might not, like to utilize during labor and remember to be flexible. Just because a mom liked a certain thing during a practice run, doesn’t mean she won’t hate it during labor. So be prepared to change along with the needs of each client.
You will likely be ‘on call’ starting at the two-week mark before your client’s estimated due date and stay ‘on call’ until baby is born. Building your doula bag should be done before your client’s birth. What you put into it is up to you, but there are some basic things that you should consider having. On the list of things I recommend for your bag would be: lotion or oil for massage, a rice sock, massage tools, essential oils that are safe and recommended for labor, LED battery operated candles, personal care items for yourself, protein and shelf stable snacks for you or to share with your client during labor. Having a change of clothes in the car is a good idea as well. Scrub pants are wonderful for doulas because they are stain resistant, comfortable and durable(I pair mine with a TDS shirt so as to not be confused with medical personnel in scrubs).
After your clients have birthed you will be required to fill out a questionnaire to turn in to your certifying organization to make sure that the stipulations were met to make it a qualifying birth. Usually these questionnaires just ask for the hours spent with the client prenatally, during labor and postpartum. Along with details of the birth: medications used, interventions done, vaginal or cesarean birth. The average amount of time the certifying agency is looking for spent with each client is about 24 hours total; not just the hours spent with the client in labor. There will be a few reflective questions asking things like ‘what was an area you think you had a strength/weakness in’ or ‘what might you do differently next time?’ After completing the questionnaire, you will turn it in to the appropriate person in your training organization which will likely be your appointed trainer.
Your trainer will go over your book reports, training exam scores, birth questionnaires and anything else that you have turned in. They will submit everything to their higher up to request your certification of completion. Depending on the organization it can take a few weeks to get your certification in the mail. Once you have completed every step of your training you are ready to go out into the birth world and look for clients who want labor support.