I’ve been a Doula in Alabama for many years, working, serving my community, and watching the birth climate change. That’s what we refer to as an Anchor Doula. As an Anchor in my community, I receive messages and emails on a weekly basis asking the same question: "How can I become a Doula?"
The first thing you need to know is that Doulas are not nationally regulated in any state. A person wanting to serve or help birthing families does NOT have to obtain certification to do so. While it’s not mandatory, I highly encourage a formal education process that will give you a solid foundation of knowledge before deciding if the Doula profession is right for you.
Ask Yourself These Questions
Whenever I’m asked how to become a Doula, I tend to answer the question with a series of questions:
#1. Why are you interested in Doula work?
#2. What are your plans for birth work?
#3. Do you understand the requirements of a Doula?
#4. Are you in a place in your life where you can leave your family in the middle of the night to help a birthing family?
You may discover in answering these questions that you actually want to be a midwife. Please understand that these are two totally different roles. Recently, the state of Alabama passed a law recognizing Certified Professional Midwives to attend home births. The Midwifery board is being formed, and will soon be accepting applications for licenses. If this is your heart’s calling, I would highly encourage you to pursue midwifery, as the U.S. is in need of Midwives and the Midwifery model of care.
If, however, your calling is supporting, educating, and walking the journey of pregnancy and birth alongside a family in a non-medical role, and you have taken into consideration the questions above, here are the next steps to help you on your Doula path.
Find Your Birth Village or Certifying Agency
For this, there’s another question you need to ask yourself: What is your birth philosophy? Finding your birth philosophy will help guide you to the birth village or agency you will fit with best.
Most Doulas look for trainings that are easy, close to home, and cost-effective. While all of these issues are important in themselves, the best way to start your journey is to make sure you align with the people you are learning from and beside.
Read through the Doula certifying agencies. Find those who best fit with your preferences and beliefs in Doula work.
The next question you need to ask is: what is your future in birth work?
Think about what other support you would like to offer the families you work with. This might include breastfeeding counseling, childbirth education, placenta encapsulation, or becoming a postpartum Doula. Some certifying agencies offer several certifications at one time.
Here is a list of certifying agencies. (This list is far from complete - there are new agencies popping up all the time)
This list provides a variety of different perspectives in Doula work. There will be some variations in each and, again, I encourage in depth research on the agencies.
Now, let me remind you that Doulas are not regulated, and you do not need certification to support a family. In my experience, however, those who have certification feel much more comfortable stepping into this role, and are better equipped to deal with the challenges that come their way.
If you are in Alabama and specifically looking into DONA, CAPPA, or Birth Boot Camp and need in-person training to complete your certification, here is a list of Alabama Trainers for these agencies:
Alabama Doula Trainers
Some agencies do not require in-person training as a requirement to complete Doula certification. This does not make them any less valuable of an organization. I have personally certified through 3 agencies during my Doula journey. I recognize the differences and respect each agency in their own perception of Doula work.
If you have started your Doula work journey or have completed certification, but feel like you need more specific training on certain topics in Doula work, I highly recommend looking into mentorship. I offer a Doula mentoring program where you can train privately to build confidence, learn skills, and receive support, no matter where you live.
Doula burn out rate is high (in about 3 to 5 years!), so mentorship can help ensure you completely understand the role of a Doula, and all aspects of Doula work before diving in. This work may sound fun, look shiny, or seem easy, but it takes some hard work, solid understanding, and a lot of work on ourselves to get to that point.
If you’re interested in getting started in Doula work, take some time to ponder, research, and pray about the walk you are getting ready to take. You have so many options, and there is no need to rush. People will continue to need support during their birthing days. This work is only growing and will not leave you behind.
I’m proud to be a Doula in Alabama. Doulas throughout the state are working as a close team to help families achieve the births their communities are looking for. If you decide now is the time to start your Doula journey, I know your community will be excited to have you.