Career Development

What Does a Doula Do?

Find out what a Doula does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Doula.

Serving as a supportive companion during childbirth, a Doula offers non-medical assistance to mothers and families through the emotional and physical realms of pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period. This role encompasses providing information, emotional support, and physical comfort, as well as facilitating communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and clinical care providers. Doulas aim to enhance the childbirth experience, ensuring the mother’s needs and preferences are heard and respected. Their presence is tailored to offer reassurance and encouragement, helping families navigate the journey of childbirth with confidence and a sense of calm.

Doula Job Duties

  • Provide emotional support to the mother before, during, and after childbirth, including reassurance, encouragement, and a calming presence.
  • Offer physical comfort measures during labor, such as massage, positioning suggestions, and assistance with breathing techniques.
  • Facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and clinical care providers to ensure the mother’s wishes are respected and understood.
  • Educate and prepare the mother and her partner for what to expect during labor, delivery, and the postpartum period, including potential interventions and their alternatives.
  • Assist the mother in developing a birth plan, discussing options for pain management, labor positions, and birthing preferences.
  • Provide lactation support to help establish and maintain breastfeeding, including positioning, latch assistance, and troubleshooting common breastfeeding issues.
  • Offer guidance on newborn care basics, such as diapering, bathing, and swaddling, to increase the parents’ confidence in caring for their baby.
  • Perform light household tasks related to the baby’s care, such as preparing meals for the mother, doing laundry for the baby, and maintaining a peaceful environment for the family to bond.

Doula Salary & Outlook

Doula salaries vary based on experience, specialization (birth, postpartum), services offered (e.g., childbirth education, lactation consulting), client demand, and the doula’s ability to network effectively. Additionally, those with a strong online presence or who work for reputable agencies may command higher fees. Reputation and word-of-mouth referrals significantly impact earning potential.

  • Median Annual Salary: $47,775 ($22.97/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $58,000 ($27.88/hour)

The employment of doulas is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing recognition of the benefits of doula-supported births, including reduced cesarean rates and shorter labor, alongside a rising demand for personalized, holistic birthing experiences. Additionally, advocacy for doula services coverage by insurance companies is expanding their accessibility and popularity.

Doula Job Requirements

Education: A Doula typically pursues education in fields such as psychology, nursing, or midwifery, with a focus on courses in human development, anatomy, and physiology. Higher education, including post-secondary certificates and advanced degrees like a Master’s, often complements their knowledge base. Majors or specializations in women’s studies, childbirth education, or family studies are advantageous, providing a comprehensive understanding of the physical and emotional aspects of childbirth and postpartum support.

Experience: Doulas typically enter the field with a blend of hands-on experience and formal training programs. Their journey often starts with shadowing experienced doulas, participating in workshops, and engaging in self-directed study to understand birth processes, comfort techniques, and emotional support strategies. On-the-job training is crucial, allowing them to apply learned skills in real-world settings, under the guidance of mentors. Successful doulas continuously expand their knowledge through professional development opportunities, staying updated on best practices in prenatal care, labor support, and postpartum assistance.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications for doulas, while not universally required, can enhance credibility and employability. Common certifications include those from DONA International and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA). No specific licenses are typically required for doulas.

Doula Skills

Birth Plan Development: Doulas work with expectant parents to create a birth plan that reflects their preferences while incorporating medical advice. The process includes discussions on pain management, birthing positions, and possible interventions, enabling parents to make informed choices and advocate for their desired birth experience.

Pain Management Techniques: Employing a range of non-medical strategies, doulas help alleviate discomfort during childbirth. Techniques such as breathing exercises, position changes, and massage not only aid in physical comfort but also support emotional well-being, leading to a more positive birthing experience.

Postpartum Support: In the postpartum period, doulas offer crucial support to new mothers, assisting with emotional, physical, and informational needs. They provide advice on infant care, breastfeeding, and self-care, while offering a compassionate ear for the mother’s concerns and well-being.

Breastfeeding Guidance: Doulas assist new mothers with breastfeeding, offering tips on baby positioning for optimal latch, managing feeding schedules, and overcoming common challenges. Their support helps mothers gain confidence and ensures a positive breastfeeding experience for both mother and child.

Emotional Support: By offering a comforting presence and empathetic listening, doulas create a safe environment for expectant mothers to share their feelings. This personalized support helps reduce anxiety and bolster confidence in parenting decisions.

Childbirth Education: Doulas prepare expectant parents with knowledge and strategies for labor and delivery. Education on breathing techniques, labor positions, and pain management is tailored to each family’s needs, promoting a sense of preparedness and confidence.

Doula Work Environment

Doulas often find themselves in varied environments, primarily in homes, hospitals, or birthing centers, adapting their workspace to where their clients are most comfortable. The nature of their work means that tools and equipment are portable, focusing on items that support comfort and relaxation, such as massage tools, birthing balls, and sometimes aromatherapy supplies.

Work hours for doulas are unpredictable, hinging on the unpredictable nature of childbirth. They must be ready to provide support at any hour, leading to a work-life balance that requires flexibility and understanding from both the doula and their family. The dress code is practical and comfortable, allowing for ease of movement and long hours.

The emotional environment is one of support, empathy, and sometimes intensity, requiring a doula to maintain a calm demeanor. Interaction levels are high, involving not just the birthing person but also their family and medical professionals. Despite the challenges, the role offers immense personal satisfaction and opportunities for continuous learning through workshops, certifications, and hands-on experience.

Advancement Prospects

Doulas, professionals who provide support to families before, during, and after childbirth, have various paths for advancement. Specializing in areas such as postpartum care, bereavement, or lactation consulting can enhance their practice and marketability. Doulas may also consider expanding their services to include childbirth education classes, offering a holistic approach to prenatal and postnatal care.

Advancing as a doula often involves gaining experience in diverse birthing environments, including home births, birthing centers, and hospitals. This exposure can lead to opportunities for leadership roles within doula collectives or partnerships with healthcare providers. Establishing a strong online presence and community engagement are crucial for doulas aiming to grow their client base and professional network.

For those looking to influence the field, engaging in advocacy work or contributing to doula training programs can position them as thought leaders. This not only elevates their career but also contributes to the evolution of doula care standards and accessibility.


What Does a Senior Marketing Executive Do?

Back to Career Development

What Does a DJ Do?