Choosing a Career as a Doula

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Factors to consider if You want to become a Birth Doula

Birth Doulas work long hours and often have unreliable income. Yet these women helpers recognize that supporting mothers in labor is very rewarding.

As more parents begin to use birth doulas during the childbirth process, so the demand for doulas has increased over the last years. Organizations such as DONA International, are reporting growing membership and interest in training and certification has also increased.

What type of background do most doulas have when they enter this field? Some enter this field after hiring a doula themselves for their own birth. Another pathway has been from labor and delivery nursing as they may want to add to their knowledge about supporting women in labor. Still others come from various backgrounds with a desire to have a more fulfilling profession.

How do you know if a career as a birth doula is for you? Here are some helpful things to consider if you are looking into becoming a doula:

1. Time Required to Complete Doula Training and Certification

It is a good idea to consider exactly how much time you have in your current schedule to meet the requirements for doula training and certification. Some of these requirements include a 16 hour workshop, reading 5-6 books, attending a childbirth class series, attending several births for evaluation purposes as well as writing an essay and various other forms of record-keeping. Most doulas complete the entire program within a few years, however if you are expecting to make several life changes during that time such as getting married, moving or having children, it may not be the best time to pursue a career as a doula.

2. Flexible Hours

Do you have a flexible schedule that allows for you to be on-call? If you have an existing part-time or full-time job already, it might be nearly impossible to also work in a doula career that demands flexibility. It is not unusual for clients to call their birth doula at a moment’s notice and require the doula’s presence at their place of birth. Not to mention, the unpredictability of birth means that doulas can miss out on special events and holidays, which can be quite a sacrifice for both the doula and her family.

3. Loss of Sleep

Doulas work during all hours of the day or night. In fact, childbirth rarely happens from 8am-4pm. Loss of sleep is part of the package. If you are one of those people who requires 8 hours of sleep every night, a doula career may not be the right one for you. Not to mention doulas typically support families for many hours at a time. Long labors are much more common than fast labors. It is not unusual to lose an entire night of sleep and then work for many more hours as the mother labors into the day. It is not unusual for doulas to work for more than 24 hours at a time.

4. Other Income?

Not many doulas are able to suport themselves or their families on their doula income alone. In fact, a University of Michigan at Ann Arbor survey done several years ago reported that the average income for a birth doula was only $3,000. The vast majority of doulas are clearly not able to be the breadwinner in the family. There are a good number of doulas who supplement their income with other related work such as childbirth education, massage therapy, lactation consulting or postpartum doula services.

5. Passion for Birth

Last, but not least is that a doula career requires a genuine interest and desire for serving women and their families as well as a working knowledge of current issues surrounding birth. A doula also must be able to meet and support a mother’s needs and choices above her own. In fact, the word doula means “woman’s servant” and the current use of this word plays a accurate picture of what it truly means to be a doula.

Do you want more information about training or certification for a career as a doula? Go to the DONA International web site.

Coming soon is a complete series on doulas!

Did you use a doula for your birth? Share your birth story with us.

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