Careers in Birth: Doula, Doctor, Midwife, and More

midwife and pregnant woman

After living through childbirth, many women and men want to help others through the experience. Some people come to the field before having children of their own, and it definitely takes a specific skill set to deal with pregnant women, not to mention pregnancy and all its complications. Here is a brief look at some of the options for a career in childbirth assistance, with some details on what to expect if you decide to enter the field.

Childbirth Educator

Childbirth educators lead classes in preconception, pregnancy, labor, sibling, and postpartum. This is usually done through a combination of correspondence work and onsite training, depending upon which organization you certify through. Many also require an evaluated teaching series and a final exam. The process takes up to two years, and costs average. Childbirth educators can work either for a doctor or midwife, a hospital or birth center, or have a private practice.

Becoming a childbirth educator is a calling for most. Although there are different routes to becoming a childbirth educator, some requiring certification and others not. There are a few certification organizations including Lamaze and the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA).

Birth Doula

Doulas provide support for the woman and her family during pregnancy, labor, and the immediate postpartum period. A workshop led by a professional doula is the center of most training in this job. There are also readings and essays, and evaluated births for most organizations. This does require a certain amount of time on call.

The vast majority of women are attending births as a doula because they are passionate about the information and helping birthing families. Some doulas will supplement their income by teaching childbirth classes. They may also be certified as lactation consultants.

There are some major certifying organizations training people to become doulas. These include DONA International, ICEA, Childbirth and Postpartum Association (CAPPA), and toLabor (The Organization of Labor Assistants for Options & Resources).

There's also a specific niche of doula known as the postpartum doula. Organized training can be hard to come by for this job, but being able to help a new family get going is the key. Can you do laundry, windows, and change a diaper? Then this might be the job for you.

Postpartum Doula

A postpartum doula is someone who is trained to support a new family after the birth of the baby. While this name may call to mind a baby nurse, like birth doulas, postpartum doulas do not offer medical care. Instead, they are there to help ease your adjustment to parenthood to this baby. This might include some baby care, lessons on baby care, help with breastfeeding, meal making, and some light housework or help with older children, all with the knowledge of the dynamics of the new family. Many of the organizations who certify birth doulas, also certify postpartum doulas.

Lactation Support Consultant

Helping new moms breastfeed and work through difficulties like returning to work, feeding issues, and dealing with baby are key elements in this job. Some places will have you lead breastfeeding education as well. Training depends on which route you take and whether you become certified. Depending on how you set up your practice, you may be in one location or travel to mothers in your area.

Doctor or Midwife

These professionals actually take care of the physical aspects of women and babies. You could be a certified nurse midwife, homebirth midwife, pediatrician or ob-gyn. There is also a fellowship or post-classroom training component to each to teach the hands-on skills of the profession. And obviously, both require extensive medical training and certification.

No matter what job you choose in this profession, remember that helping new families get a great start is a noble profession! You will make a difference.

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