Becoming a Doula
Postnatal doulas assist a new mother after her baby is born by helping her to establish breastfeeding, running errands, doing light housework, caring for any older children and providing opportunities for the mother to rest and recover from the birth.
What training is involved?
Although the profession is currently unregulated in the UK, it is strongly advised that an aspiring doula attends a suitable doula training course. There are a number of these courses running throughout the country, each one following a slightly different format. Common course topics include active listening skills, physiology of birth, working with health professionals, relaxation techniques for labour and birth, and breastfeeding support. Course fees range between £290 and £1000, with durations of three days to nine months. Most participants find doula training courses to be rewarding and empowering experiences in their own right, and will enter into their new careers with renewed self-confidence and a heightened sense of purpose.
Several of these courses are accredited by Doula UK – a non-profit association run by doulas. Completion of an accredited course is compulsory before a new doula will be permitted to join the association. Similarly, British Doulas, a doula agency, has its own training course which must be completed before a doula is able to join their ranks. This helps to ensure that parents are safeguarded during such a vulnerable and significant time in their lives, and it also encourages doulas to continue expanding the knowledge base by networking with other doulas and attending relevant workshops and study days.
Once a training course has been completed, a new doula is then free to join the association of her choice, or she can choose to work alone, if she feels this would better suit her personal philosophy and circumstances.
How much can I earn?
Birth doulas usually charge a flat rate of £200-£600, depending on their level of experience. This fee typically includes at least two antenatal visits, attendance at the labour and birth, one postnatal visit and unlimited contact via telephone and e-mail.
Postnatal doulas charge between £10-£14 per hour, often setting a minimum amount of hours they are willing to work for each family.
How much you earn each year will depend on the demand for doulas in your area, the hours you are willing to work and the distance you are willing to travel to meet new clients. It can take time to establish yourself in your local birthing community, so it is important not to depend too heavily on your income as a doula. If you do not have a partner who is able to support you financially during the first year, you will probably need to have a flexible ‘day job’ which will allow you to attend births or visit clients with very little or no notice. Some doulas decide to train in a complimentary profession, such as pregnancy massage or reflexology, which they can then incorporate into their doula business. Other possible sidelines include birth pool hire, pregnancy or family photography, and babysitting.
It is also important to bare in mind that some births may last up to 48 hours, so if you have young children you will need to have very reliable childcare.
Klaus, M.H., Klaus, P.H., and Kennell, J.H. (2002). The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth. U.S.A: Perseus Books.
Doula UK - www.doula.org.uk
Nurturing Birth www.nurturingbirth.co.uk
Hampshire based doula training course - www.babyonboarddoulas.co.uk
Doula network for Scotland and Northern England -
Doula agency - www.britishdoulas.co.uk
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