Career Development

Doula Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Doulas are professionals who provide emotional and physical support to pregnant women and their families. They work with women before, during, and after childbirth.

Doulas are professionals who provide emotional and physical support to pregnant women and their families. They work with women before, during, and after childbirth.

Doulas can help prepare for labor by helping clients learn about birthing options, choosing a healthcare provider, and creating a birth plan. During labor, doulas can provide emotional support and help guide clients through breathing techniques. After the baby is born, doulas can help new parents care for their child and make sure they know how to find the resources they need.

Some doulas specialize in working with certain groups of people. For example, some work with teen mothers or expectant mothers who have had previous miscarriages or stillbirths. Others work with pregnant women who have experienced trauma or abuse in the past.

Doula Job Duties

The following are the duties and responsibilities of a doula:

  • Providing emotional and physical support to laboring mothers 
  • Cultivating a trusting relationship with each client in order to assess her specific needs and establish a good rapport with her
  • Helping with communication between parents and medical professionals during labor and delivery
  • Creating a safe environment by working with other birth team members to meet medical needs while supporting noninvasive approaches to pain management
  • Assisting the mother in preparation for birth by using breathing, relaxation, massage, acupressure, and techniques to help the baby descend into the birth canal more easily
  • Offering evidence-based information about pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding, newborn care, postpartum adjustment for moms and babies
  • Performing non-medical tasks such as keeping track of medications and timing contractions
  • Providing support to the partner as well as family members as they prepare for the birth of a child

Doula Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for doulas is $48,164. The top earners make over $77,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work in medical centers.

Demand for doulas is projected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. This growth will be due to an increase in women who want a more natural experience during childbirth.

Doula Job Requirements

The requirements for a doula are as follows:

Education: There are no formal educational requirements for a doula, although a high school degree or equivalent is typically preferred. 

Training: Before working as a doula, it is necessary to complete a training program. During this training, you will learn about the natural process of delivery and how to support the mother during pregnancy and throughout the postpartum period. You will also learn about safety, birth and infant care, and nutritional and parenting information. Some employers may offer more training and professional development once you begin working as a doula.

Certifications: While certification is not required, many are available at various levels. Certified professional midwives (CPM) and certified nurse-midwives (CNM) are two types of certifications available. These certifications are administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) and require candidates to pass an exam to receive certification.

Doula Skills

A doula must possess the following skills:

Empathy: Empathy is essential for doulas because they need to be able to understand their clients’ feelings, particularly when it comes to childbirth.

Knowledge of childbirth techniques: A doula should have knowledge of various birthing techniques, such as breathing exercises, positions for labor, pain management techniques, breastfeeding methods, and others.

Strong communication skills: Doulas must be able to explain things to both mothers and medical staff in order to facilitate the best possible outcome for the mother and baby.

Adaptability: This job requires flexibility because every birth is different. A doula needs to be able to adjust his or her behavior accordingly. 

Organizational skills: Doulas need to have excellent organizational skills to keep track of all the tasks that must be completed before and after birth.

Attention to detail: Doulas must have excellent attention to detail in order to accurately record contractions, the time between contractions, and any other pertinent information.

Doula Work Environment

Although doulas usually work in private homes or birthing centers, they may occasionally work in hospitals. Doulas provide physical comforts such as massages, as well as emotional support and education. Their job can be physically demanding because they often assist with childbirth. A doula typically works with one or two families at a time. They spend much of their day out in the community visiting patients in labor, doing prenatal visits, attending births, or providing postpartum visits.

Some doulas work independently while others work for agencies that employ several people. Doulas are usually self-employed but may find jobs through independent providers or doula agencies. Doulas often work during regular daytime hours but may need to be available 24 hours a day in case of preterm or nighttime labor. 

Doula Career Advancement

The doula is a unique role in the healthcare industry that can be difficult to advance in. Because doulas are often self-employed, they don’t necessarily work their way up the corporate ladder. On the other hand, there are many opportunities to specialize in specialties like postpartum care or alternative healthcare.

Some doulas look to advance to other fields like childbirth education. They might teach courses on the birthing process and the role of the doula in the process. They can also write a blog or a book about their experiences as a doula. Others look to become nurse midwives. These professionals are responsible for managing the entire birth process, from the prenatal period to the postpartum period. They prepare mothers for what to expect and work to minimize pain and complications.

Doula Trends

Here are three trends influencing how doulas work. Doulas will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Growth of Alternative Birth Options

The number of families choosing to use doulas is increasing each year, with nearly half of new mothers using the services of a doula in 2017.

Doulas help provide support for women during childbirth by providing physical assistance, emotional support, and education related to options available. 

Increasing Value of Virtual Doulas

As the field of doula services continues to grow, there is an increasing need for virtual doulas, who provide support to women via phone or video chat.

Virtual doulas can offer increased convenience and accessibility compared to in-person options, especially for women who live in rural areas or don’t have reliable transportation.

This trend may also help reduce barriers to entry into the profession, which could encourage more people with different backgrounds and life experiences to consider becoming a doula.

Doulas as Advocates

As more doulas have been trained in safe and evidence-based protocols, they are becoming more involved in advocacy work for their clients.

In addition to being advocates for the well-being of mothers and babies, doulas are increasingly using social media and other channels to advocate for healthy birth practices in hospitals and doctors’ offices across the country. 

How to Become a Doula

1. Planning Your Career Path

The role of a doula is challenging but rewarding; becoming a doula can be emotionally difficult, so it’s important to think about how you would handle the emotional stress that this role entails. 

Because the field is so broad, there are many different types of doulas: some focus on pain management techniques or breastfeeding, while others focus on postpartum depression or anxiety. 

Those who choose this career path should be selfless and empathetic as well as nurturing and patient. Doulas should also be comfortable with physical contact, and seeing blood and other bodily fluids. It requires lots of patience and compassion, so you should think about whether these traits are strengths for you.

2. Writing a Resume

Resumes for doulas should highlight their ability to provide emotional support to clients, communicate effectively, and maintain a calm demeanor. You should include details of how you have supported clients through pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.

You should also emphasize your experience in working with specific populations. If you are bilingual, this is a big plus for applicants applying to work with immigrants or refugees. 

Highlight any relevant training or certification you have in the doula industry as well.

3. Applying for Jobs

When searching for a job as a doula, you should start by reaching out to doulas who are currently working in the field. They can offer insight into what it’s like to work in the industry and how to find jobs, as well as give you advice on the best ways to approach potential employers. If your town or city has any doula associations, consider joining them. You can also join online forums where you can connect with people and share advice and experiences. Be sure to make it clear to the people you talk to that you are looking for work—it’s possible to do this without being intrusive or imposing on them.

4. Ace the Interview

Interviews for doula positions will typically ask a series of questions that help the interviewer understand your personal experience with childbirth and how you would provide support to a birthing couple. In addition, interviewers will want to know about your education and training, what your strengths are, and why you are interested in this particular position.

A doula interview involves a mix of questions about your professional and personal experience with childbirth. Personal questions may include how you felt about the birth of your own child, what types of support you received from others at the time, and what type of support you provided others going through the same process.

Think of any situations where you had to deal with birth complications and how you handled them. If you do not have any formal childbirth training or certifications under your belt, don’t be afraid to explain why you want to pursue the field. Prepare to discuss how it fits into your life or career goals. Be prepared to share information on any relevant volunteer experience that helped shape your interest or build your skills.

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