What is a birth doula?
She is a caring woman who:

  • Recognizes birth is a key life experience, understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists a pregnant woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for her child’s birth
  • Stays by the side of the laboring woman throughout her entire labor (no change of shift)
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective point of view and assists in gathering information to aid decision making
  • Acts as a liaison between the laboring woman, her partner and clinical care providers
  • Does not replace the woman’s partner or clinical care providers

Who relies on a doula?
Childbearing women and couples, midwives, doctors and labor and delivery nurses appreciate the resources, techniques, knowledge and continuous empathetic support a doula provides. For women laboring without partners, the labor support person may be the only source of focused, continuous emotional support throughout the labor and birth of the baby.

Historically, women have relied on many different people to provide this kind of support — mothers, partners, friends, midwives, nurses and childbirth educators.  Recent studies indicate better outcomes for babies and their mother, shorter, more comfortable labors, fewer complications, and greater maternal satisfaction when a labor support person is continuously present.

The doula’s nurturing patience, expertise and commitment to childbearing women and their partners can help women to have safe and satisfying birth experiences.

Is the doula the same as a nurse?
Doulas do not replace nurses or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals. A doula can remind you of questions you want to ask. Nurses may need to take breaks or change shifts. A doula provides continuous support.

How can I be available all the time?
You probably can’t. That’s why most doulas make arrangements with a back-up doula to cover them when they are not available. You would inform your client of this in advance. If you can’t arrange back-up, you would let your client know of the times that you would not be available and decide together how she would want this handled. Some doulas work with an on-call group of doulas who take turns covering different days of the week. They provide their clients with this schedule. There are a few doulas who work for a hospital-based program and are on-call on certain days.

Should I quit my day job?
Probably not. Most doulas start out with just a few clients in their first year. They allow back-up to cover them when they are not available.

How will I find clients?
Identify people in your community who have access to pregnant women. Doctor and midwifery offices, pregnancy counseling services, prisons and teen groups may be interested in spreading the word about your services. You can also publicize your services by posting flyers or speaking at bookstores, moms’ groups and childbirth classes.

Should I print business cards?
Yes, but not too many. You may want to change something on them.

What do doulas get paid?
It varies. There are doulas who charge $400 a birth (usually when they are newer) and those who charge $2000 a birth. It is dependent on your level of experience, the area you live in, and your desire to keep labor support financially accessible weighed against your family’s need for income. Most doulas who are starting out offer their services on a voluntary basis or at a very low cost – perhaps just enough to cover transportation and childcare.

What books and links do you suggest?

  1. The Doula Book by Kennell and Klaus
  2. The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin, 4th edition
  3. Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Penny Simkin
  4. www.childbirthconnection.org This site is full of up to date, evidenced based information about pregnancy and childbirth.
  5. www.motherfriendly.org Promoting a wellness model to improve birth outcomes and reduce costs, this group has over 90,000 members.
  6. www.lamazeinternational.org Many people don’t realize that Lamaze is no longer about the “strange” breathing.  Normal birth is the name of the game!
  7. www.DONA.org Info on certification.