Questions to Ask When Preparing to Become a Doula

Doula helping patient

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A doula is a woman who is trained to provide support to a mother before, during, and after she gives birth. Unlike a midwife, she has no medical training—but her experience and support can make a great positive difference in a new mother's life.

Why Do You Want to Become a Doula?

Choosing to become a doula is no easy decision. While the rewards are great, there are long hours at births and life on call. You may be drawn to this field as a way to help other women as they become mothers, or perhaps it's a natural extension of something you already do like working as a childbirth educator, lactation consultant 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 women do supplement their incomes or pay for certain things with this money. The vast majority of women are attending births as a doula because they are passionate about the information and helping birthing families.

Some doulas will supplement their income by teaching childbirth 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?
  • What are the requirements for continuing education/recertification?

Preparing to Become a Doula

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. 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 monies worth? Are there any hidden costs or things that surprised them about the training or post-training support?

Choosing an Organization With Which to Certify

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 as well as your needs. For example, if you are already attending births, you may not need a course that includes information about the birth process as part of the curriculum. 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

There are some major certifying organizations training people to become doulas. These include:

Questions to Ask Each Organization About Training

  • 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 or mail-in?
  • How many certifying births will I need? Is there paperwork? Who fills it out?
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