Congratulations! As you prepare for labor and the birth process, you may be considering having a labor doula. A labor doula is a person knowledgeable and experienced in the birth process who provides continuous emotional, physical, and informational support to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth.
Want to become a Labor Doula? Learn more about Birthingway’s program!
Working with a Birthingway student doula
Birthingway student doulas have completed the classroom portion of their training, and now must attend a minimum of five births in the role of labor doula in order to be certified by Birthingway.
Our student doulas work on a volunteer basis while they complete their training. Birthingway reserves our student doulas for low-income families. In order to qualify for our student doula services, we ask that families fall under the 150% federal poverty guidelines.
A student doula is expected to provide you with at least two prenatal visits and one postpartum visit, and to support you during your entire labor and delivery experience.
You can expect them to arrive on time to their appointments with you, act professionally, and communicate with you clearly. They will provide informational, emotional, and physical support, such as position changes, massage for relaxation, and pain management.
They will not provide medical or midwifery care, such as checking and interpreting fetal heart tones, performing vaginal exams, or giving medical advice. They will not make decisions for you, or project their values or goals upon you.
The amount of prenatal visits, length of labor and delivery support, and postpartum care depends upon when you contact them to work with you. If you contact a doula shortly before your delivery date to begin a doula-client relationship, it may not be possible to meet two times before your baby is born. Also, if you do not contact the doula until you are in active labor, they will not be able to support you as fully as when you contact them at the very beginning of labor.
A Birthingway student doula is required to sign and abide by a Code of Ethics, as well as a Confidentiality Agreement in their work with clients. As student doulas, they are required to complete a set of paperwork for each client they work with for certification. Therefore, you can expect to complete and sign an evaluation form for them after your baby is born.
The information pertaining to your birth experience documented in the paperwork, as well as your student doula evaluation form, will only be viewed by the Birthingway Specialized Program Coordinator, except in the case of audit when only the log sheet listing the five births with corresponding signatures will be viewed by an outside auditor.
Working with a Birthingway Certified Labor Doula
A Birthingway certified doula has completed classroom training, attended the required number of births in the role of labor doula, completed the required independent work and submitted required paperwork related to all births attended. Certification is valid for two years, at which point doulas wishing to recertify submit paperwork documenting required additional births and continuing education.
Birthingway Labor Doula Training Overview
Birthingway’s labor doula training includes a thorough workshop, with required out of classroom work. Through hands-on exercises, lecture, written work and class discussion, our student doulas cover a broad variety of material designed to prepare them to support a mother and her partner before, during, and immediately after the birth of their child.
Some of the topics covered are:
- The importance of client confidentiality
- The doula’s scope of practice (what the doula does and does not do)
- How to provide emotional support
- Working as a team with the partner
- The emotions and sensations of labor and how the doula helps during each stage
- Using effective touch
- Penny Simkin’s Take Charge Routine
- The risks, benefits and alternatives of many interventions
- Ways the doula supports a client during a specific intervention
- How the doula facilitates communication with medical staff
- Working with back labor
- Working with a long or stalled labor
- How the doula helps the client push more effectively with or without an epidural
- How the doula supports a client during a Cesarean birth
- Specific strategies for support during a VBAC
- Breastfeeding initially and during the first few weeks
- Postpartum depression
- How to help the parents process their birth experience
Questions to ask a prospective Labor Doula
When choosing a labor doula, the most important part is the sense of connection and “fit” you feel with a prospective doula. It’s also important that you are informed not only about their experience and what services they offer, but also about how their approach to birth complements your own. We suggest the following questions to get you started:
- What childbirth experience do you have?
- What did your training include?
- What services will you offer me as a professional labor doula?
- How much time will you spend with me as your client outside of labor and delivery (how many prenatal and postpartum visits are included in your fee)?
- Do you have additional skills which may help me?
- Can you provide me with references?
- Have you worked in a hospital setting? birth center setting? homebirth setting?
- What is your philosophy about childbirth and supporting mothers and their partners during labor?
- How do you feel about natural childbirth? About use of pain medication in labor?
- Can I call you with questions or concerns before or after the birth?
- When will you join me when I’m in labor? If I’m giving birth at a hospital or birth center, will you support me in labor at home first if I choose?
- Do you have back-up doula support for times when you aren’t available? May I meet them?
- If you charge a fee, what is it? What is your refund policy?
To interview a Birthingway doula, comment on a particular doula, or get any further information, please contact us using the form on the right.