There are few life experiences more overwhelming and emotional than childbirth. For nervous moms-to-be, the assistance of a doula can make all the difference. Simply put, they're women who help and support other women before, during and after labor. Doulas have existed since ancient times – and as long as women continue to give birth, doulas will always be able to find work.
Doulas support parents through every stage of the labor and birth process. They provide a great deal of physical and emotional support to women in labor. As the mom-to-be labors, her doula might massage her lower back, suggest new positions and help her move into those positions, model breathing techniques and offer frequent encouragement. She should also support the mom's partner and explain what is happening at every stage.
A doula will also check the baby's position and the woman's progress and take note of any signs of distress. Doulas aren't qualified to provide medical treatment, so if a doula is assisting a home birth and foresees complications, she should alert the parents and call an ambulance. In a non-hospital birth, the doula will often deliver the baby herself. In a hospital, the doula should support the mom while medical professionals oversee the delivery.
Doulas often provide support during pregnancy and after birth, too. During pregnancy, a doula can help the mom-to-be prepare a birth plan and learn breathing techniques. If a new mom wants her to, a doula can also do home visits during the first days and weeks of the baby's life to assist with breastfeeding, sleep problems and the other challenges that arise during this time.
Unlike doctors or labor and delivery nurses, doulas aren't required to have any formal medical education. In fact, there's no official "doula school." Technically, any woman can call herself a doula and offer her support services during labor, but doulas generally do complete coursework and receive certifications. Doula training is provided by certification organizations such as DONA (Doulas of North America) International and CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association).
Doulas assist with all types of births. Wherever the mother wants to give birth – whether it's at home, in a birthing center or in a hospital – a doula can support her. Even a woman who plans to have a c-section can benefit from a doula's support immediately before and after the delivery.
This job can be very challenging because of the scheduling unpredictability. If a client goes into labor at midnight, the doula has to be ready to go join her and stay until the baby is born. Doulas who have their own children need to have child care arrangements in place at all times.
Years of Experience and Salary
Doulas work for themselves, so each one can set her own doula pay rate. Generally a doula will charge a set rate for a birth, which includes her services for however long the birth takes. Sometimes a doula will charge an hourly birth fee instead. If she offers pregnancy or postpartum services, a doula will either charge an hourly rate or offer a package that includes a set number of home visits. Birth fees can range from $500 to $2,500 or more. Hourly rates for home visits are commonly in the $20 to $40 range.
Hustle and reputation play huge roles in determining doula salary. The more experience a doula has and the larger her city, the more she can charge. A doula who earns a glowing reputation can also also command a higher fee than less popular doulas. A doula can also decide how many clients to take on each year, so someone who builds up a successful business may end having to turn away work.
Job Growth Trend
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which releases data about job growth, doesn't study and track doulas. But the field isn't at any risk of dying out. Although trends change, it's safe to say that doulas will always be needed.