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Finding a Qualified Doula

Finding a Doula

Locating a doula who provides the services needed is an important task. The following are sources for finding a doula in your community:

Questions to Ask a Prospective Doula

  • In selecting a doula, the following questions should help expectant parents make a good decision.
  • What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you may want to considering checking with the organization)
  • Tell me about your experience with birth, both personally and as a doula.
  • What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners through labor?
  • May we meet to discuss our birth plans and the role you will play in supporting me through birth?
  • May we call you with questions or concerns before and after the birth?
  • When do you try to join women in labor? Do you come to our home or meet us at the hospital?
  • Do you meet with us after the birth to review the labor and answer questions?
  • Do you work with one or more back up doulas for times when you are not available?
  • May we meet them?
  • What are your fees and your refund policies?

Qualifications of a Doula

DONA International – The Doula Standard

DONA International (formerly Doulas of North America), is a nonprofit organization that provides expert training and certification for women interested in becoming Doulas. DONA has more than 3,000 actively practicing certified doulas living and working in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. DONA has certified many Doulas and they hold their Doulas to a very strict code of conduct and certification.

Birth Doula

For a birth Doula, training focuses on the emotional needs of women in labor and non-medical physical and emotional comfort measures. The programs require that participants have some prior knowledge, training and experience relating to childbirth, and consists of an intensive two or three day seminar which includes hands-on practice of skills such as relaxation, breathing, positioning, and movements to reduce pain and enhances labor progress, touch, and other comfort measures.

For certification, the Doula must have a background of:

  • Work and education in the maternity field
  • Or observe a series of childbirth classes or its equivalent

She must also complete the following:

  • Doula workshop offered by a DONA Approved Doula Trainer
  • Required reading
  • Essay that demonstrates understanding of the integral concepts of labor support
  • Positive evaluations from clients, doctors or midwives and nurses along with detailed observations from a minimum number of births

Postpartum Doula

DONA International has exacting standards set to ensure top-quality postpartum support internationally. This evidence-based certification program includes:

  • A doula training workshop
  • Infant care experience
  • Breastfeeding training
  • Background reading
  • Investigation and documentation of local referrals for future clients
  • Essays that demonstrate understanding of the integral concepts of postpartum doula support
  • Positive evaluations from supported mothers and their partners are also required

Some private agencies train their own doulas and certify them under their own business name. Because of the variation of training practices, the knowledge base and qualifications of doulas can vary greatly. This lack of consistency compelled DONA International to research, write and implement an evidence-based program.

Postpartum Doula training focuses on preparing the Doula to support the family after birth and to help them have the best possible procedures. She learns about the physical and psychological needs of the postpartum period and development of the newborn. The Doula receives training on:

  • Breastfeeding skills and support
  • Support of the woman with postpartum depression
  • Support for the partner
  • Fostering bonding, multiples, grief and loss
  • The importance of referrals to competent and appropriate professionals and support groups
  • Educating the family on infant care, newborn characteristics, coping skills and supporting the mother

Thanks to Penny Simkin and Jamie Swan of DONA International for their valuable contributions.


For more articles about Doulas:

For more information:

Go to the Pregnancy health topic.