How to Become a Doula

Home birth

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Becoming a doula is not a difficult task for most in a physical sense. However, the decision to enter a career in helping women and their families give birth is a big decision.

You must be willing to live life on call, even if you're working with partners. You will work odd and late hours, sometimes for days in a row. And you must learn how to allow others the freedom and knowledge that they need to make decisions for themselves and their babies, even when they don't agree with your ideas.

Once you have looked at the physical, mental, emotional and time commitments needed to be a doula you will need to begin to think about training. Do you want to be trained officially or even certified? Where can you get that training?


Training can be obtained in many locations around the world. DONA International has over 120 trainers. International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA), Lamaze International, toLabor (The Organization of Labor Assistants for Options & Resources)(Formerly ALACE) and CAPPA all have programs as well. Many will offer training in your area if you agree to sponsor the training and help with finding participants and dealing with local issues and questions.

Your training should include something on all aspects of being a doula from hands-on labor support, to finding clients and starting your own business. Carefully look at each of the programs you're trying to decide between and see which one fits you best in the following areas:

  • Cost of Training
  • Depth of Training
  • Length of Training
  • Location of Training
  • Philosophy

There are some programs that offer distance learning as well as scholarships. Ask individual programs what they have to offer if you have special needs.


Some programs will offer certification as part of the package, others you will need to spend extra money to apply to be certified or to obtain a certification packet. However, certification is not mandatory for any program or to be a doula. However, there are benefits to being certified, including having a national organization backing you and your training (credibility), a standard of training for all doulas, and in some cases, it makes insurance reimbursement easier to obtain.

Finding Clients

Once you've done your training and are ready to go the next part can be lengthy. Finding a client may be very easy or it may be difficult. Being a member (even if not certified) of most organizations will get you listed on their referral listings sections. Also, letting others in your field in your area know that you're open for business. Perhaps even taking some business cards and giving them out or offering to speak at a childbirth class about doulas and labor support would help you. Look at your training organization for more information.


Now that you're on your way, it's likely that you'll need support both mentally and emotionally from other doulas. There are doula groups in many cities, or you could start one yourself. There are also newsletters from professional organizations. If you're internet capable you can find forums for birth professionals or mailing lists and chats. Many Facebook groups have sprung up, like the Heart | Soul | Business group. You may also have a group set up by your trainer, so be sure to ask, as these are really popular with doulas who are old and new alike.

Welcome to the wonderful world of doulas! Don't hesitate to stop along the way and ask questions!

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.