As unregulated health care professionals, a doula’s role involves advocacy, education, counselling, collaboration and negotiation to provide physical, emotional and informational support to individuals and families across the full spectrum of their reproductive choices. This role relies on a comprehensive set of skills and knowledge. With the foundation of your doula experience and education you can choose to grow your career path in many different directions.
So let’s talk about some career options that complement each other.
Lactation Consultant or IBCLC
These are two different avenues of support.
A Lactation Consultant/ Educator works with families from preconception through the stage of weaning offering education, encouragement, counseling, an experienced point of view, and fostering confidence, and a commitment to body feeding. Lactation Educators can be found working in a variety of settings to offer their services to families. Families can find them working as public health educators, WIC peer counselors, hospital/community educators, pediatric support professionals, and in private practice as educators. You can find certifications online for these programs.
An International board-certified lactation consultants (IBCLC) is an allied healthcare professional who specializes in caring for bodyfeeding parents. They’re qualified to treat common nursing problems along with more serious conditions such as mastitis and clogged milk ducts. Lactation consultants most often support parents in how to increase milk supply, find the best nursing position, and manage breastfeeding pain. IBCLCs are held to strict standards. To be accredited, they must complete 90 hours of training, 300 to 1,000 hours of clinical experience, and extensive health sciences coursework. An accredited lactation consultant must also recertify every five years and continue their education.
Prenatal Fitness Instructor
As a Prenatal & Postnatal Fitness Instructor, you can help educate and train clients in all stages of pregnancy – before, during, and after – about what is safe for them and, conversely, what should be avoided to help protect the health of both the gestational parent and baby. Furthermore, fitness training is a fun way to meet new clients and get to know them in a positive environment. Prenatal fitness certifications are available both online and in-person. Take a look in your area to see what works best.
Perinatal counselling provides emotional support and treatment for individuals (and couples) who are having a difficult time adjusting to pregnancy and parenthood, who are experiencing a perinatal mood or anxiety problem, or who are experiencing both. Some of this work can naturally overlap with a client’s pregnancy and birth journey. If you really enjoy the counseling and support side of birth work you may want to become a psychotherapist or mental health professional. You can find certification courses through college or university or through private vocational training schools.
If you have a creative eye, you can capture the moments of birth for clients on camera. A few of our alumni have combined their creativity with a love of birth. You can either work solely as a Birth Photographer, documenting the pregnancy journey and birth. Or you can have photography as an additional service available through your doula work. It depends what you’re comfortable with and how you’d like to structure your business. Each client is different and you’ll want to work with them to understand what their goals are and what kind of pictures they’re looking for. The great thing about this career path is a relatively low barrier to entry. If you already have a love of photography and a camera you can get started. Alternatively, there are a variety of photography courses available both online and in person.
A healthcare professional that assists with the labour and delivery of a new baby. Midwifes are experts in low risk pregnancy and birth, providing care to patients and delivering the baby. In the case where there are concerns or complications, a midwife can transfer care to a physician if needed. A midwife is different from a doula, in that they are a trained medical professional who can deliver a baby. A doula is trained to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to clients. However, a doula is not a medical professional. A question we see a lot at Doula School is does a client benefit from having a midwife AND a doula – the answer is yes! They both provide very important services to clients, and many people find it helpful to have both. Training to be a midwife typically takes between 3 and 4 years, depending on the program and its requirements.
Labour & Delivery Nurse
They work as main points of support for OBGYNs, monitoring of patient vitals, administering medication, and establishing communication with expectant parents. Once a baby is born, the L&D Nurse acts as an informational resource to parents, to monitor neonatal vitals, to ensure the birthing person isn’t experiencing postpartum complications. Nursing degrees can vary depending on where you are located, however they typically take 3-4 years.
Whatever path you decide to take, know you have a foundation of knowledge that will help carry you through.