Questions to Ask When Preparing to Become a Doula

Doula helping patient

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A doula is a person who is trained to provide support to parents before, during, and after childbirth. Unlike a midwife, a doula has no medical training—but their experience and support can make a great positive difference in a new parent's life.

Choosing to become a doula is no easy decision. While the rewards are great, there are long hours at births and you must be on call whenever your clients need you. You may be drawn to this field as a way to help people as they become parents, or perhaps it's a natural extension of something you already do like working as a childbirth educator or in another health field.

Bear in mind that working as a doula is not, for most people, a way to earn a living, though many people do supplement their incomes with this money. The vast majority of people who attend births as a doula do so because they are passionate about sharing information and helping birthing families.

Some doulas supplement their income by teaching childbirtth classes. They may also be certified as lactation consultants.

Questions to Ask Yourself

One of the first things you must do to become a doula is to determine which of the many training and certifying organization is best for you. These questions will help you think through your options:

  • What kind of time do you have to devote to training?
  • Can you travel to attend a training?
  • Do you have a nearby mentor?
  • Is there a reading list?
  • Is there a certification exam?
  • How many certifying births will you need?
  • What are the requirements for continuing education/recertification?

Choosing a Certifying Organization

Once you have answered the questions above, you may have a better idea of what level of service you want to provide to your clients, and which type of training organization is best suited for you. 

Before you finalize your decision, talk to people who have taken classes to become a doula with the organization you're considering. Did they get the support that they needed? Were their needs met both during and after the certification process? Did they feel that they got their money's worth? Are there any hidden costs or things that surprised them about the training or post-training support?

Major Certifying Organizations

There are many organizations that offer certification for doulas. You will need to figure out which fits your philosophy of birth, your budget, your time frame, and your needs.

For example, if you are already attending births, you may not need a course that includes information about the birth process. If you are a nurse working in labor and delivery, you might need more labor support skills but have plenty of experience in observing births. Major certifying organizations training people to become doulas include:

Questions to Ask Each Organization About Training

For each organization you are considering, be sure to find out about the requirements and all the steps in the process.

  • Do I have to travel to attend the training?
  • How long is the training?
  • What will I be taught during the training?
  • Will I need additional materials? If yes, what?
  • What is the average time to complete the training and become certified?
  • Other than the training fee, is there a fee to be certified? Recertified?
  • Is there a certification test? Is it in person, online, or mail-in?
  • How many certifying births will I need? Is there paperwork? Who fills it out?

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