Starting doula work uncertified - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 01-07-2014, 08:24 AM - Thread Starter
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I took a DONA doula workshop 3.5 years ago... the limit to getting all the requirements for certification is 3 years, so in order to become certified through them apparently I'd have to take another workshop and then attend 3 births. I'm not really wanting to take another workshop because of the cost, and the time (I have a 2 month old)... and I feel like I've been completely doused in childbirth information and read/heard/learned everything I can stuff in my head for now AND had my own birth so now I know what it's like. What was holding me back before from attending births was the fact that I just hadn't had my own child, so I didn't feel like I could really provide the support a laboring mother would need having not experienced it myself. I know there are great doulas out there who haven't had children, but for me that's just how I felt.


So the question is... HOW do I start attending births uncertified? you don't have to have certification to be a doula, and I am already a certified massage therapist, herbalist, yoga teacher and nutritionist (online course, haven't finished yet, but in the works!) ~ so I believe I definitely have the skills a doula needs, I just need the experience.


I also know I can provide really well-educated and firm advocacy for women in hospitals, after my hospital birth, I am very passionate about making sure women's needs are met and their requests are honored during their births~ Is going the volunteer route a good way to start?? Ideally I'd want to start with being paid for my time, but if volunteering is the only way to get experience when you have never attended a birth, then I'll do it.


What about websites/local birth resource directories? Are those effective at drawing clients to you or is it better to get experience first and then put yourself out there? I would feel stupid going to a meeting interview with clients and then saying I've never attended a birth. 


advice please :)

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#2 of 6 Old 01-07-2014, 09:39 AM
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I love hearing other women's journey to labor support. I have found that word of mouth and facebook have brought me potential clients. I have always volunteered my services despite being told by other doulas not to. Some say that you could be taken advantage of. I have found that almost every woman that I have supported has compensated me financially. I have also heard that many women will suggest a small fee just to cover the cost of childcare. I also took my DONA training a couple of years ago and have yet to receive my certification, some of the births I attended did not qualify for the hours, so here I am again with another client who will receive my services for free. Hoping this is will meet my requirements. I would encourage you to look into other certifications or simply list yourself as DONA trained. I would see if you could get the word out through a Birth Center, Local midwife or Hospital. Blessings on your Journey!


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#3 of 6 Old 01-07-2014, 03:29 PM
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A lot of doulas work without certification. It can be difficult to find ways to volunteer or get those first births. Some doulas charge a small fee, $100, to cover their own expenses even for the first births they attend. I found a local organization that had a volunteer program. They have a center where they host classes about birth and such and they had a program with a local clinic that served low-income women. I agreed to work with 3 moms. I attended 2 births and worked briefly with a third mom who didn't call me for the birth. It was very helpful for me. I wouldn't have wanted to charge. The births taught me a lot about working with clients and creating boundaries, etc. These births did not meet DONA's requirements so I probably would not be able to count them. There is also a local hospital based program where doulas sign up for shifts and help any woman who wants a doula. This can be useful to give you a schedule but a friend of mine spent a lot of time hanging out at the hospital with nothing to do. I would look for a local doula group you can join. Other doulas may be able to send clients who can't afford to pay their fees your way. I took my training class locally, and the teacher would pass along requests she received from people who were looking to work with new doulas. I didn't have any problem with clients being bothered that I hadn't attended births yet. They knew I had done training and was looking for experience. Good luck!

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#4 of 6 Old 01-09-2014, 02:07 PM
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I wasn't certified as a doula when I started attending births. Just put yourself out there. If there is a doula networking group in your area, join them and go to meetings. Sign up on Get business cards and put them around town. 

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#5 of 6 Old 01-17-2014, 11:11 AM
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I worked as a doula uncertified for about 7 years and it didn't seem to matter to people.  I started out charging some nominal fee, like $50 (the going rate around here was only about $300 at that time for the most experienced doulas), or whatever families felt they could give me.  Usually they'd give me a gift afterwards even if they didn't give me money, after they saw the work I put into it and what it was worth to them!


I think your best bet would be to try & connect with other doulas or birth workers in the area, put your name out there in the form of business cards, etc, and just get involved in birth stuff.  Once the ball gets rolling, word of mouth will work wonders!


Our local doulas used to get together periodically, and pay a small fee each year to have a website with all our names listed on it.  That was a way people found & interviewed us.  Also, you could offer to be backup for another doula & possibly get experience that way.


I was lucky too...I knew some midwives who let me assist them at homebirths and that helped me get comfortable attending births and also it gave me an advantage because the midwives began recommending me to clients.  But I am sure once you put yourself out there, regardless of how, it'll work out.  Where there is a will, there is a way! :)

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#6 of 6 Old 04-09-2014, 09:10 AM - Thread Starter
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thanks for the insight :)


I asked a very experienced doula in town what she thought of starting to work uncertified and her words were that it doesn't matter and passion/self-motivation to educate yourself and learning on the job is more important. The qualifying agencies just take your money and don't really "make" a good doula. 

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