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So, you want to be a Doula. FAQ
Topics included in this FAQ:
What is a doula?
What does it take to be a doula?
Training to be a doula.
Books to Read
The term doula is Greek for slave or servant. Doulas provide emotional and physical
support during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. (NOTE: In some areas, the term
doula only refers to postpartum help, in this FAQ I am dealing only with Labor support.).
They call themselves many things including: Childbirth Assistant, Labor Support
Professional, Birth Assistant, Birth Companion, etc.
A doula does not speak for a couple, provide medical or clinical skills (Monitrices are
nurses or midwives who provide labor support with clinical skills.), or act in any
unprofessional manner (Most organizations have Policies that each doula must follow.).
A doula provides:
- explanations of medical procedures
- emotional support
- advice during pregnancy
- exercise and physical suggestions to make pregnancy more
- help with preparation of a birth plan
- massage and other non-pharmacological
pain relief measures
- positioning suggestions during labor and birth
- helps support the
partner so that they can love and encourage the laboring woman
- avoid unnecessary interventions
- help with breastfeeding preparation and beginnings,
- written record of the birth
- many other possibilities that vary from doula to doula
According to Mothering the Mother, How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier
and Healthier Birth, by Kennell, Klaus, and Kennell (1993), having a doula can give you a:
50% reduction in cesarean rates
25% shorter labor
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in oxytocin (pitocin) use
30% reduction in analgesia use
40% reduction in forceps delivery
Almost anyone with a desire to helping birthing women and their families can be a doula.
Some doulas are trained and certified, others just have on the job experience. We will
specifically discuss training later in this FAQ.
Things you need to consider when deciding about becoming a doula:
Do you have the time? (Most doulas do not work for hospitals or birth centers and must be
subject to being on call 24 hours a day.)
Do you have child care for your children? (Finding a 24 hour daycare is a tough job,
sometimes partners can help, sometimes other doulas or family members can help. If you
are working with a midwife and have a young, breastfeeding baby, sometimes it works out
that you can bring that child.)
Can you handle lack of sleep? (Unfortunately for everyone involved, babies do not care if
it's 2 am and you haven't slept for three days, they are ready NOW. Some people can
handle sleep deprivation and others can't. Birth is one of those unpredictable things.)
Are you able to separate your agenda from the birthing family's desires? (This can be
difficult. You have to learn that everyone has a different opinion and it isn't always yours.
For example, you think that the episiotomy rate is way too high, but a particular mom really
has a fear of tearing and would prefer an episiotomy. Can you give her information and let
her make her own decision?)
Here are a few training organizations:
Doulas of North America (DONA)
1-206-324-5440 will put you in contact with members in your area.
AskDONA@aol.com is the e-mail address.
snail mail address:
1100-23rd Ave. East
Seattle, WA 98112
ALACEHQ@aol.com for e-mail
snail mail address:
PO Box 382724
Cambridge, MA 02074
National Association of Childbirth Assistants (NACA)
snail mail address:
219 Meridian Ave.
San Jose, CA 95167
Being a doula means taking EVERYTHING
you are, everything you have learned about life, and channelling it in your
own way to provide the best possible support for a family. It means working
to give the birth experience back to the people it belongs to. It means
learning (sometimes the hard way) that the forces of life...and of
death...are to be given the utmost respect. To be present at this time,
this unfolding of lifes mystery, is the ultimate privilage. -Darlene
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, PT, CD(DONA)
The Birth Book by Dr. William and Martha Sears, RN IBCLC
Special Women, Polly Perez
Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier & Healthier Birth by John H. Kennell , Phyllis H. Klaus , Marshall H. Klaus
"The Whole Nine Months," Parenting, Gayle Pryor, May 1992, p34.
Active Birth by Janet Balaskas
Good Birth, Safe Birth by Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCuthcheon
Silent Knife: Cesarean Prevention & VBAC by Nancy Wainer Cohen & Lois Estner
Open Season: A Survival Guide for Natural Birth and VBAC in the 90's by Nancy Wainer Cohen
Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities by Henci Goer
Natural Birth After Cesarean: A Practical Guide by Johanne C. Walters , Karis Crawford
Easing Labor Pain by Adrienne Lieberman
Rebounding From Childbirth: Towards Emotional Recovery by Lynn Madsen
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