How Do I Become a Labor Doula?

By Katie Terry, CLD

Three years ago this week I received confirmation that I was a Certified Labor Doula (CLD) through The Childbirth and Postpartum Professionals Association (CAPPA). The process of becoming a CLD was one of the most exciting but scary times of my life! Some backstory is needed there.

Before becoming a doula, I worked for a popular quick-service restaurant in marketing. I loved my job there and was even considering starting the process to become an Operator of one of their stores. Those plans quickly changed when my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child *THE WEEK* we started praying about this decision.

Since we still needed to get some income on my end after the baby was born, I took a position at our church as the secretary during the day so I could bring my newborn with me to work. I loved admin type responsibilities and structure and knowing what I’m getting paid each month… I love being in CONTROL. HA! Parenthood totally broke this Type A gal 🙂

In the midst of this job, I became close to a local doula and the woman who lead our childbirth class prior to our first born. We ran together and became great friends. She mentioned attended a Labor Doula Training that was coming up and I had all the excuses in the world why I shouldn’t attend.

After learning more about the program, talking with my midwife, my husband, and Jesus, we decided this is something worth making the investment in and seeing where it takes me. It was the biggest leap of faith I’d ever taken and never in a million years did I think I would be doing what I do!

Flash forward now: I have become Owner of The Shoals Doula Group and lead 4 amazing women in this line of work as well and have been able to let go of my other jobs. We love what we do!! So you can imagine we get contacted regularly by folks asking, “How can I become a doula too??” Each of us at SDG have had different paths of getting to this point, but here are the things to you need to do!

**Since our group is certified through CAPPA and our local hospital, Eliza Coffee Memorial in Florence, AL,  requires CAPPA training, we will be discussing this process through their program to use this as a reference to our inquires.**

Step One: Find a Training

UPDATE! I have recently become a Labor Doula Trainer and will be offering trainings in our area. Check out our Shop for trainings that are available!

Can’t wait for a training to be schedule? Check on CAPPA’s website here for all current trainings listed. There are several in Tennessee and at CAPPA’s headquarters near Atlanta, GA.

CAPPA Labor Doula Trainings costs $400 and up.

Step Two: Attend your Training

CAPPA’s Labor Doula Trainings are two days long, usually a Friday and Saturday, and are worth 18 contact hours; nursing contact hours are available upon request. Be aware that children, including nursing babies, are not allowed to come to trainings. The CAPPA Labor Doula Training Class includes the CAPPA Labor Doula Manual, and covers the following topics (from CAPPAs website):

  • CAPPA certification and policies
  • Practical application of Scope of Practice, ethics, and integrity
  •  Building bridges with medical/midwifery professionals
  • Modeling and teaching positive communication and self-advocacy
  • Support for every stage of labor and birth
  • Hands on practice of proven comfort measures and labor support techniques
  • Emotional support for labor and birth, as well as unexpected events
  • Hospital procedures – risk/benefit as well as alternatives and support
  • Cesarean and VBAC support
  • Prenatal and postpartum consultations and support
  • Breastfeeding initiation and support
  • Business development, marketing, and networking to create a successful career
  • And much more!

Step Three: Begin your Certification Process

TIME OUT FOR PERSONAL OPINION HERE: If you are not planning to be certified, stop and wait till when you are! With the time and financial investment you give for your training, it’s well worth continuing on with the certification process. There are many benefits with becoming certified with CAPPA including community with like-minded professionals, a Grievance Policy and Scope of Practice that medical communities and your clients will respect, accountability with continuing education, and opportunities to move forward in your career. If you’re attending a training simply to learn the basics of doula work, I will say that hands on work is much more beneficial for this goal!

So onward! You’re going to get certified!! Next you must become a member of CAPPA ($65) and enroll in CAPPA Academy ($175). Here is where you will get your paperwork, access to your tests, submit your papers.

After your training, you have two years to finish your certification. Here are the rest of the requirements (from CAPPAs website):

  • Read the CAPPA Labor Doula training manual and the required books from the CAPPA required reading list.
  • Complete Part I of the HUG Your Baby Training. ($35)
  • Order, read, and complete all online content, including videos, from the Understanding Breastfeeding Book and the Understanding Birth Book available in the CAPPA shop. Details/forms are provided within CAPPA Academy.
  • Attend a minimum of three labors/births as a doula. You’ll be required to obtain evaluations from parents and healthcare providers. Details/forms are provided within CAPPA Academy.
  • Create a resource list with information on local support for parents. A guide for creating this list is included within CAPPA Academy.
  • In order for candidates to be eligible for CAPPA certification they must sign and agree to the following forms: Code of Conduct and Social Media Policy, Grievance Policy, Mission Statement, CAPPA Approach / Philosophy Statement, Vision Statement, and Scope of Practice.
  • Pass the multiple choice exam and essays in CAPPA Academy. An 85% passing grade is required.

So that’s your checklist that needs to be completed by two years!

Step Four: Submit your Paperwork

After you have passed your written and multiple choice exams, it’s time to send in your paperwork! Birth evaluations, Reading List, Course Observation Forms, and CAPPA’s signed forms must be sent in before your two year deadline. Check everything!! Be sure not to overlook something or it will take some time to get verification back. Otherwise, you should expect to hear something within the next couple weeks!! Fingers crossed!!

Step Five: Keep up the good work!

After certification, continuing to develop your business and maintain your certification are the main things you need to do. You may want to add on additional certifications to add more to your repertoire or expand your business with additional services such as placenta encapsulation or postpartum support. Keep finding ways to make your passions your occupations!

Doula work (especially in our area in north Alabama) is not easy to come by. It takes hard work to market yourself and put yourself out there to build clientele. Don’t expect to make a Facebook Page and then get all the clients in the world. Show people why hiring a doula is worth every penny!! You got to get your hands dirty to build your business!! I’m on year 3 and am just now seeing a steady flow of clients. I’m looking into how to build that growth for myself and my partners for next year. If you have no clue how to do this, connect with talented people who are! There are several opportunities to learn the in’s and out’s of marketing either virtually or with an in-house agency. You’re not alone so ask for help! (And we totally take feedback and ideas.. So let us know if you have any!!)

In order to keep your credentials up to date, you must recertify every 3 years. This ensures that you are seeking continuing education for your line of work and agree to the most recent CAPPA standards. Here’s what’s required for recertification (from CAPPAs website):

  • Maintain continuous membership in CAPPA.
  • Document 15 hours of continuing education in pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, or postpartum approved by CAPPA.
  • Sign and agree to the most current CAPPA Policies included in the recertification forms.
  • Read 10 research studies from peer reviewed journals published within the last 5 years.
  • Submit $75 recertification fee.
  • Postpartum Doula Program Only – Infant/Child CPR certification must be CURRENT
  • To learn more about recertification, click here.

So that’s the gist! I do not work for CAPPA nor do I hold any inside source on if this information has changed so be sure to research CAPPA’s website and contact them with any questions before starting this journey!

Here are some additional tips we have to share!

Before you begin, be sure your family is on board- this is work takes big sacrifices and includes your village! You will miss parties, vacations, girls nights, etc etc for the on-call life. This can put big strains on your friends, family, children, and marriage! Be sure they are supportive of you and willing to help you in times of need. There’s nothing greater than the supportive home after a long birth!

Find your community- This can be a difficult process so be sure to network and connect with local birth professionals and other doulas for tips, advice, and insight on the birth culture in your area. Attend local La Leche League Meetings, hospital childbirth classes, and other mommy groups to see what the culture is in your area and bring awareness of the benefits of a labor doula!

Develop a list of babysitters- If you have little ones, you need to have reliable sitters in the event that you have to up and go! Whether this is family or sitters willing to come to your hours at any hour during the day, it will give you peace of mind when you’re meeting with potential clients that your kids needs will be met while you are away. Potential clients will ask about these things for their peace of mind!

Charge what you’re worth- As you can see, there are many out-of-pocket expenses to start this path. With the fees mentioned above and in addition to purchasing books, you’re looking at spending close to $650 (If you have kids, think about babysitters fees while you attend your trainings, births, consultations, etc.) Do not be afraid to charge from the start! You will be able to make your investment back quicker, avoid burnout and gain more respect for your work.

PRAY!- As Christians, our family focuses on God’s plan for our life for wisdom and direction. We seek our Father for affirmation with the plans He has put on our heart. Be sure that this is His calling for you and not one of your own– those lines can get easily crossed. You will not be anyone’s savior as a labor doula, you are called to be their helper and supporter. This is not about you. In those dire moments, point them to Jesus and you will be released of that desire to be needed or depended on.

I hope this is some help for you as you begin your labor doula journey! We hope you are blessed from the work as much as we are ❤️

Photo Cred: Shoals Birth Photographer

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