Doulas in modern society are known primarily as helpers in the childbirth process, but they also can help and support a new mother after a baby is born. Training is available for both aspects. Most educational programs designed for doula training are approved through the Doulas of North America organization. Training for this profession may be obtained through seminars or workshops that focus on support and comfort during pregnancy and postpartum concerns, as well as care for newborns.
Many doula training programs offer certification. Candidates for certification must participate in the aforementioned workshops for a specified amount of time and read the required texts. They must also take classes expressly related to childbirth and/or be experienced childbirth attendants. Some certifications may require students to complete infant CPR certification as well. Online courses and programs are available.
Labor and Birth Doula Training
Labor and birth training focuses on pregnancy and effective ways of helping mothers navigate through the birth experience. Some schools offer seminars and workshops, while others allow distance certification by providing materials and reading lists that cover the major topics in labor and birth. Candidates most successful in these programs have a compassionate nature and are not squeamish around blood and other bodily fluids. Many topics relating to both pregnancy and birth are covered by the labor and birth doula training program. Some of these topics include:
- Physiology and anatomy in pregnancy
- Health care procedures related to pregnancy
- Support and comfort measures
- Complications of childbirth
- Emotional aspects of giving birth
Postpartum Doula training
The postpartum doula assists new mothers by offering education, advice and support in the early days after a new baby arrives. The doula might help care for the infant and the mother, assist with breastfeeding or even take on housekeeping duties. Training is provided through workshops similar to those for the labor and birth doula and through mentored practical experience. Many professional organizations, such as DONA International, offer their own training and provide approval for other training programs. Training in these programs focus on typical problems new mothers face when bringing home a newborn and how to provide help and referrals to other providers, if necessary. DONA International requires that those interested in becoming a postpartum doula be familiar with basic child care, breastfeeding and related postpartum issues before enrolling in the workshop. Some topics covered through these programs include:
- Caring for the new mother
- Transitions for the new family
- Doula support of breastfeeding
- Postpartum mood disorders
- Doula business aspects
Career and Salary Info
The doula profession is not regulated by any government agency, so salary information for this profession is hard to find. As of January 2016, doulas made a median annual salary of $31,428 according to Payscale.com. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, an increasing number of mothers have had doulas present for labor and childbirth over the last two decades.
Certification and Continuing Education
There are several national and international organizations that offer doula training, certification and career support. Some individual states also have their own organizations. DONA International is the most well-known and approves many of the doula training workshops. Certification requirements include attending a DONA-approved workshop of at least 16 hours or more in length and reading required books from a reading list. Applicants are also required to have a certain amount of experience attending births or take a childbirth preparation class.
Other certifying organizations include the Academy of Certified Birth Educators, Childbirth International, Maternitywise, International Childbirth Education Association and Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association. Certification requirements are similar in that attending an approved workshop and reading certain books is part of the process. Some organizations, such as the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA), require passage of a test.
Many of these professional organizations also offer workshops and programs for related jobs, such as breastfeeding consultant and childbirth educator. Many schools also offer formal midwifery, or nurse-midwifery training, which is a master's-level program to train individuals in medical techniques in the childbirth process.
Certification requirements for postpartum doulas from DONA International include attending a postpartum doula workshop of at least 27 hours in length. Also, applicants must submit good evaluations from parents and health care providers, read required books and show certification in infant CPR, among other requirements.
Through a doula education program, doulas learn how to educate and support women during and after childbirth. Many training programs, workshops, and seminars are available to prepare students for certification through organizations such as DONA International, the International Childbirth Education Association, and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association.