Before I started my birth doula business, I didn't do much research or planning. After thinking about my path as a birth professional and the lessons I learned from experience and through training with a variety of organizations, I'd like to offer 3 tips and 29 questions (actually there are more than 29) that may help as you consider your options of who to train with and what path to take to become a doula.
Tip #1 – Look for birth businesses in your area and talk to professionals in the field.
Whether you’re interested in becoming a birth or postpartum doula, a childbirth educator, a breastfeeding educator, midwife, or a professional in any field, really, it's helpful to seek out people in your area who are doing similar work. Questions to ask can include:
- Why did you choose to become a ___________?
- What organization did you train with?
- Why did you train with that organization?
- What do you like most about doing birth work?
- What are the challenges of doing birth work?
- What is the attitude about birth in the community?
- What resources (people, websites, books, etc.) helped you along the way?
- Are there support organizations in the community for birth workers?
Don’t just talk to one person. Don’t be afraid to call or email birth professionals in your area. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and the work they love to do. If there isn’t anyone who does what you want to do in your area, seek out people online. You can be a trailblazer and bring a valuable service to your community.
Tip #2 – Get a feel for the climate of birth and birth work in your area.
Explore the following questions:
- What are the prevailing attitudes about birth in your community?
- How do women you know talk about birth and their experiences?
- What are the different kinds of childbirth classes that are available around town?
- Are there many doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, lactation consultants, etc. in your area?
- Do women have options for birth - how many hospitals, birth centers and homebirth midwives are there and do midwives practice in hospitals?
- What is the attitude about birth at different area hospitals based on conversations with staff, birth professionals and women who have had babies at these hospitals?
- Are there many support options for expectant and new families about pregnancy, natural birth, cesareans, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, new mom groups, parenting styles and more?
By getting answers to some of these questions, you can get an idea of how supportive your community will be about your doula or birth business. I hate to say it this way, but feel the need to: You will get an idea of what you’re going to be up against if your community is not so open to what you’re bringing, or you will discover that you’ll have a ready-made community to enter so that you will have lots of local support in your area.
Through your research, you may find there is more of a need for postpartum doulas, or that no one offers placenta encapsulation. You might learn about bereavement doulas or other programs for the first time and feel led to seek out training in multiple areas.
If you find that you are a pioneer striving to make a positive change in your community, you will want to surround yourself with other birth professionals through online forums, social media groups, and national/international email lists so you can be well-supported with what you want to accomplish.
Tip #3 – Carefully consider the birth professional organization you want to train with.
Questions to ponder:
- What ARE the organizations that I can train with?
- Do I want to attend a live training or do a home study course?
- What kind of commitment do these organizations require and how will I make those requirements fit into my life?
- What kind of support do these organizations provide during and after training and certification?
- How do different organizations train members to start and market their businesses?
- What is the organization’s philosophy?
- Do I want to be affiliated with a large organization or a smaller, more intimate one?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of either large or small organizations?
- Are there many professionals trained with a particular organization in your area?
- What are the advantages of training with an organization that is represented by many professionals in your area?
- What are the advantages of training with an organization that has fewer professionals in your area?
For example, in some towns or cities, there may be birth doulas who are primarily trained with one organization, and another area may have many of doulas trained with a different organization. That could possibly affect the philosophy of practice in the area. Do you want to have the same affiliation with others in your community? Will being trained and certified by a different organization cause tension by others in your community toward you (sadly, as much as I'd like to say that everyone is inclusive and accepting, this can happen sometimes)? Can you bring a training to your area to get more people trained by the organization you're interested in? Does it matter to you?
Another factor to consider is the level of business support your training organization provides. Do they help members with marketing their businesses online? Do they provide training for marketing or starting your birth business? Do they offer opportunities for advanced training?
One great benefit of being a birth professional is being part of a wonderful community. It can take a while to figure out where your place is and how you fit in, but it's important to find your tribe and get involved. If there is no tribe, don't be afraid to start one - you never know where that might lead you.
If I had known the answers to some of these questions before I started my journey in this field, I think it would have helped me adjust more easily. While I was better prepared to start the business itself, doing more research would have helped me greatly to understand the climate of birth in my community, challenges that other doulas and childbirth educators faced.
If you are new to birth work, come and join the conversations happening in the Inspired Birth Pros Facebook Group. We have a diverse community of birth professionals in many places throughout the world and with varying levels of experience and wisdom. It's inspiring to learn about the work that others are doing. And finally, if you want to go ahead and work on getting answers for some or all of these questions, you can click the yellow button below to request access to the free resource library that includes this list. There is even space on the worksheets to add your answers.