Doula training is not a well defined course of study. Doulas assist mothers during labor and delivery, or may assist new parents in their first few days at home. They function as the person who helps the mother and her partner during all non-medical aspects of labor. The doula may help advocate for special things the mother or partner need during labor, or she may simply facilitate labor and delivery by providing additional support.
Although some doulas have a medical background already, most doulas receive their first doula training when they birth their own children. Although having children of her own is not a requirement, it is considered necessary to provide the empathy and support a woman needs in labor. However, if one is passionate about assisting laboring moms, not having had a child before should not be a discouragement. If you can be extremely empathetic, are a good advocate, and fully understand the process of birth and aftercare, you can still be an excellent doula.
Sometimes a person wishing to become a doula will receive formal doula training and have certification from one or more doula organizations. Usually doula training of some type is necessary to build a successful doula business, but this training varies. Often doulas enroll in doula training seminars for a weekend or take classes at a doula organization. Some doula training can include studying the specifics of breastfeeding and becoming a lactation consultant as well.
Doulas are most familiar with natural childbirth. Doula training often involves learning methods for coping with the extreme pain of childbirth.. However, a doula will not force natural childbirth on a woman who wants pain medication. The work is all about what the mom needs to have the least stressful labor and delivery.
Doula training usually involves classes that teach the medical aspects of the birth process. First time mothers in particular may need more explanation than an obstetrician or a midwife has time to give. Being able to explain processes of birth to expectant moms can be of significant help.
One may also receive doula training about possible problems during labor or delivery that can change a birth plan. The doula learns how to develop strategies to protect as much of a client’s birth plan as possible when complications arise. Doula training also requires on the job experience, which can usually be obtained by working with another doula. Often doula wisdom is passed from experienced doulas to beginners, much like the passage of oral traditions and folklore.
In some cases, one can take online doula training classes. Usually these classes must be combined with practical experience. Theory only accomplishes so much. One wouldn’t want to fly in a plane piloted by someone who had taken online courses but had actually never been up in a plane.
The more experience and training a doula has, the more likelihood she will be able to build a successful career as a doula. Those in larger cities where people have higher incomes are likely to receive the most work, since doula services tend not to be covered by insurance. Some doulas, however, work for very little money, so that their services are available to families with low incomes.
Occasionally doulas are employed for the purpose of serving very young girls with low socioeconomic status, who do not have the support of family to help them through and after a pregnancy. These jobs are seldom financially rewarding, though they may provide rich emotional rewards.
Success as a doula depends very much on the depth of your doula training, where you live, what you have studied, and how much caring and empathy you can give to a woman in labor. Career success is increased when the doula can offer support after the birth. In this role she may give advice about breastfeeding, cook for the family, or help parents get a little sleep. The field is still a very open one, which gives women the option of choosing how they wish to practice as a doula.