The Job Description Most Doulas Refuse to Accept

the job description of a doula

Doulas as Childbirth Educators

The most common definition of a doula says something like, "a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period" (DONA.org).

Most often, people think about the things doulas do during the actual birth such as position changes, back rubs and verbal encouragement, but informational support is glazed over as if the act of giving information is a simple one. The truth is this: anyone whose role involves transmitting information is an educator at some level. Therefore, every doula is inherently a childbirth educator whether she realizes it or not.

Childbirth education is not an add-on service; it IS your service.

This also means there are many doulas who are not nearly as effective in their careers as they could be because they don't think they are educators or don't want to be! Most professional labor support persons, or doulas, think of childbirth education as an add-on to their birth services, when in reality this is already a crucial part of their process. Whether you are seeking childbirth educator certification or not, your clients come to you to ask questions and gain information and resources. While a major part of your job description is to help your clients prepare for birth, few people are helping you understand exactly HOW to do that. In fact, most if not all doula trainings require trainees to develop resource lists of community providers who offer services to childbearing families. I have yet to meet a childbirth professional who is not a wealth of information, expertise and resources. The challenge, though, is transmitting that information.

The Teacher Who Couldn't Teach

In my freshman year of college, I was a Psychology major, which required me to take a statistics class. I say WAS because one day into statistics and this mathematically challenged girl from Oklahoma knew firmly she was not cut out for this line of work! My professor was brilliant, and held multiple degrees from schools in many countries. The problem was he was a horrible teacher. As he wrote at the chalkboard, he would also speak to the chalkboard, with his back to the class, vaguely conveying what was going on or why it was happening. I even scheduled office hours with him and lamented that I was sure I was doing the problems right but wasn't getting the correct answers when I checked them. His only response was, "well if you are doing the problem correctly, you should not be getting the wrong answers." Uh, no $#!+, Sherlock! I actually find psychology and even statistics extremely fascinating but cannot tell you how they work. Had he been able to explain that to me, I may have remained in the program!  

I’ve never gotten to know a client and her partner faster or easier during a prenatal. While the point of YBE is to prepare our clients for their birth I really see now that this is equally as beneficial to me as their doula. Knowing their personalities, seeing them open up and interact with each other and everything I learned about them during the Envisioning Your Birth section is going to help me be that much better of a doula for them.
— Ashley Rainey, YBE Instructor with Empowered Birth Doula Services www.doulaempowered.com

Most doulas don't know how to teach.

Where am I going with this, you ask? Few doula trainings teach people how to teach, or better yet how to educate. You can be the smartest person in the world and have tons of information about pregnancy, childbirth and newborn care, but if you are unable to pass on that knowledge to people who need it, it's not doing anyone much good! Believe it or not, educating is not as simple as sliding an information packet across the table or rambling on about interventions and birth options for an hour at a prenatal appointment. 

Once I realized that the WAY I did my job as a doula had to incorporate a certain level of education, it opened up a whole world of possibilities for me! Luckily, when I switched my major from Psychology, I switched it to Education! My understanding of how people learn, how to motivate learners to take initiative in the process, and how to effectively and efficiently transmit knowledge to others helped me do my job as a doula!

So, what if you don't have a degree in education?

No problem! I tell parents that I don't believe they should have to be experts in childbirth in order to have positive birth experiences. Why should they have to go to medical school and read a billion books in order to comprehend a "natural" process they may only experience once or twice in their lifetime? They shouldn't! Neither should you have to go spend thousands of dollars on an education degree in order to be an effective childbirth professional! You already know all the information; you just need someone to give you the tools and confidence to share that information with your clients!

Your Birth Experience is a system to help doulas educate their clients.

While the Your Birth Experience (YBE) system can be used to create private and group childbirth classes, that wasn't my original purpose for it! In fact, I fought that part of it for a long time because there are many amazing childbirth methods available for expectant parents. In the beginning, it was primarily a system I created to do my job as a doula more effectively. I didn't want to write a childbirth education curriculum; I just needed a way to find out what my clients truly wanted and help them achieve it. What that really meant was helping them discover what they wanted in the first place, as well as consolidating a vast amount of information to them about their childbearing rights, evidence-based birth information and knowledge about the process of physiological labor and delivery!

Even for a trained and experienced educator, that is a monumental challenge! Yet, every doula lacking that teaching know-how is just expected to magically and effectively convey this "informational support" to each and every one of her clients. No wonder so many doulas are frustrated, confused, burnt out and spending their money on training after training hoping to become better equipped to do their jobs.

It's really not that hard.

When it comes down to it, educating others isn't that hard; it's just that no one is showing you how to do it! YBE was created to empower families with confidence in birth and parenting by combating myths with facts, using simple and effective training techniques and getting them the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions about their birth experiences. As a Your Birth Experience Instructor, you will receive the tools and resources to do just that!

Want to learn more about what Your Birth Experience can do for you? Here's how: