YourDoulaBag blogs - Doulas, Childbirth, Labor and Birth YourDoulaBag


5 Lessons learned from 10 Years of Doula Work

I can hardly believe that I am finishing my 10th year of doula work.  The years go by fast, but the recovery from a marathon birth is painstakingly slow.  I have learned a lot over these years and have put together 5 lessons. 

1) The Backup Doula Relationship is Important

We like to think that we will never need to call our backup doula...but, eventually you will.  I usually call in my backup or serve as a backup a couple of times a year.  Because of this real need, I have found 3 doulas to serve as backups for me.  They are doulas that I can completely count on.   When I select a doula for my backup I look for someone who practices similarly to me, is extremely dependable and keeps in communication. 

A few years ago, I had a couple that wanted me to use their childbirth educator as my backup.  This is usually a nice idea since the couple already has a relationship with this person.  I spoke to the doula and she agreed to be my backup.  As it turned out, I needed her at 3 am when I was already at a labor when this other couple also went into labor.  Much to my surprise, the backup doula said ‘No’.  She said that she wasn’t feeling well and that she also had a client that might go into labor and that she couldn’t go to the birth.  She had not been in communication about her being sick or about her other client that was due.  After a mini freak out, I had to desperately call other doulas and beg them to help me.  LESSON LEARNED!  The backup relationship is important and don’t risk it with someone that you don’t know and trust.  After this situation occurred, I had my attorney (and husband) create a Backup Contract which details out the relationship and makes me feel more prepared. 

5 Lessons learned from 10 years of Doula work2) Don’t Ignore Red Flags

When I was a new doula, I wanted every client that interviewed me to choose me as their doula.  If they wanted me then I wanted them.  This usually worked out, until it didn’t.  I completely ignored my gut feeling and accepted a client that didn’t seem like a good fit.  I can’t really define exactly what didn’t feel right, but there was several red flags waving in my face that I ignored.  The doula relationship didn’t go well.  It was my fault because I should have said no.  I wasn’t the right doula for them even though they thought that I was.  LESSON LEARNED!  Just because someone wants to hire me doesn’t mean that I should take them as a client.  Now I pay attention to my intuition.  If a relationship doesn’t feel right then I suggest another doula.  This is best for the clients and for me.

3) Data Matters

When I started out I had an amazing ability to remember my clients and their births.  I could recall details and give out numbers like an encyclopedia.  I am not sure when, but eventually I hit a wall.  I could no longer remember the births!  I didn’t know if I had attended 18 or 21 births.  Everything started running together and I realized that I didn’t have a system to collect my data and keep it organized. 

To be fair, I had few systems but none was used routinely and therefore, none were up to date.  Then I experienced a few tax seasons where I had no clue about my expenses and mileage driven. LESSON LEARNED! Data matters and I needed a system to keep it organized.  At this point, I developed the system that went on to become YourDoulaBiz.  YourDoulaBiz is a web based data management system that I created to easily keep my doula data organized.  Once I had an organized system (that I used on a regular basis) my business grew.  I had an organized history that I could pull numbers from for interviews.  I knew exactly where my client data could be found.  It changed my career.


4) Repeats Rock

It usually takes a couple of years for your first clients to have the opportunity to become repeat clients.  I absolutely love when I hear from a previous client asking me to be their doula again.  It is the best.  Working with a client a second, third or fourth time is amazing. {Yes, I’ve had 2 clients where I have been their doula 4 times}  The relationship is already solid.  You don’t have to learn about their previous birth experience because you were there.  You are already part of the team.  I also love to be there when a client has a smooth and quick second birth when they had experienced a long and difficult first birth.   That is a magical moment for me!  It is a true joy to be in a phase in my career when half (or more) of my clients are repeats.  LESSON LEARNED! Repeat clients are amazing. A positive birthing experience will likely lead to another positive birth experience.

5)Talk to Clients About Visitors

Even as a new doula I would ask my clients about their plans for having visitors at their labor and/or birth.  But as a new doula, I didn’t really discuss what this meant.  I would just make a note of who would be there and go on to my next topic.  Then there was the time that I had a very negative experience with a grandmother to be.  My client’s mother wanted to be at her daughter’s birth, but the grandmother-to-be wasn’t made aware of the couples desires for birth.   When I showed up at the labor and the word got out that they wanted an unmedicated birth, the grandmother-to-be was furious.   She made the couple aware that she did not agree with their decision.  It was extremely uncomfortable for all of us.   The grandmother-to-be actually grabbed my arm when just after I closed the hospital bathroom door {where the couple wanted to labor alone} and accused me of “making them go unmedicated”.  It was a nightmare. LESSON LEARNED!  Now at a prenatal I cover this topic in detail.  I even created a handout about Visitors at Your Birth that includes a test for potential visitors.  I want my clients to make sure that they are aware of the possible problems that visitors cause if they are not completely supportive of the process.  A laboring woman doesn’t need frowning faces and visitors saying things like “Oh honey, you’ve been in labor a long time”. 

Share a lesson that you have learned in the comment section!


Goal Setting for My Doula Business

As doulas, we do a lot of juggling.  Most of us offer many services, live a life on call and have a family that would like to see us too.  How do you do it?  Is a question that I am often asked.  One task that is essential in running and growing my business is GOAL SETTING. 

Goal Setting - What my process looks like

My first year of goal setting looked a lot like dreaming.  I was more focused on big dreams and less focused on the steps to get there.  Since then, I have refined my goal setting process.  I am now better at setting smaller goals.  When those smaller goals are achieved the bigger goals are next on the list!

Doula Business Planning2016 is the fourth year that I have used Leonie Dawson's Create Your Shining Year Workbooks as the primary tool in my goal setting process.  I love the workbooks so much that I am an affiliate** for the product.  As an affiliate, I promote the product because I use it myself and believe it.  

I'll admit, the first year I purchased the workbooks I didn't really fill it out.  I went through and filled out the easy pages, then put it on my shelf and went about my day to day tasks.  About halfway through the year I pulled the workbook out and was disappointed that I didn't fill the whole thing out.  The second year, I was much better at filling it out, but didn't check back in with it that often.  Last year I got it right!  I scheduled time into my calendar to fill out the workbook (several 2 hours sessions over a few weeks).  Then I scheduled more time to review the workbook on a regular basis throughout the year.  HOORAY!  This made such a change in my business.  

In case you were wondering...just buying the workbooks doesn't actual make real change in your business!  You have to put in the time and effort. 

New for 2016 - Goal Setting Webinars

I heard from many doulas that they love the Create Your Shining Year workbooks too so I thought it would be fun to set goals together.  Everyone that purchases a workbook through my affiliate link will be invited to 3 goal setting webinars that will take place between late December and mid-January.  

How do you do it? I love hearing about how everyone sets goals.  If you have a goal setting routine please share with a comment. Maybe you don't have a goal setting routine yet.  That's okay too!  Consider grabbing a workbook and joining me for the free goal setting webinars.  It will be a great jump start on this important process. 

 ** as an affiliate I receive a portion of all sales that I refer through the links on this page and in the video

How to Work as a Doula - Doula Outside the Box {5 in a 5 part series}

The three most common ways to work as a doula are as an independent doula, as a member of an agency and with a doula collective.  However, there other ways to be a doula.  Many doulas have thought outside the box and created their own unique way that works for them. {For purposes of this blog I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

There were four less common ways that appeared a few times in our survey about how you work as a doula which was completed by over 180 doulas.  These were: partnerships, volunteering, hospital based work and dedicated backup. 

How to be a doula


Doula partnerships seem to be gaining in popularity possibly due to the desire to have a more predictable schedule.  Doula partnerships are usually between two doulas.  The doulas often share everything from income to clients.  Many doulas in partnerships attend prenatal appointments for all clients.  The on call schedule is divided so that each doula has a known schedule for being on call.  When the client goes into labor the doula on call is the one that attends the birth.  The fees are usually split where the attending doula receives the major

The doulas in a partnership generally share the business responsibilities and make business decisions as a team.  Special consideration should be given to setting up contracts between the two parties so that the workings of the partnership are certain.  

Partnerships can be a great way to have more control over your business while preventing burnout of living life on constant call. 

Volunteer Doulas

Volunteering your time as a doula is another way to work as a doula.  Many doulas start their careers as volunteer doulas in order to get experience.  If volunteering with an organization or healthcare practice, doulas are often given set shifts and are not assigned particular clients.  They are available if needed during their assigned shift. Doula may also volunteer their services and follow the typical model of working with clients one on one.  Many doulas that work as volunteer doulas find the work very gratifying. However, volunteer work is not a necessity to being a doula.

Hospital Based Doulas

Hospital based doulas usually work as employees of the hospital.  They are assigned clients through the hospital program and can work with clients on a one on one basis or more commonly are assigned clients in labor.  Hospital based doulas can have the opportunity to work with a wider variety of clients than doulas in private practice.  Because hospital based program generally provide doulas for free, doulas are more accessible birthing women no matter what age or economic status.

While many doulas might enjoy working as a hospital based doula, the programs are not common.  One of the oldest program is at Lexington Medical Center in Lexington, South Carolina. In 2014, they reports to have provided doulas to over 8400 birthing families!


 Dedicated Backups

A dedicated backup is a doula that does not have her own clients, but rather only provides backup support for one or more doulas in her area.  Dedicated backup doulas are often paid a fee to provide backup support regardless of whether they attend the birth or not.  Having a dedicated backup doula in place can be a great asset to a busy doula.  Because dedicated backups do not take their own clients they are more likely to be available should they be needed. 

 Series Wrap-Up

It's the final blog in our "How to Work as a Doula" blog series. What did you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment on an article.  If you liked the series share it with your doula network.  If you missed any blog read more here. 

How to Work as a Doula - Doula Collectives {4 in a 5 part series}

Collectives that I describe in this section are independent doulas that work together under a shared group name, but handle all money and contracts on an individual basis.  Some groups use the word ‘collective’ in their names, but actually function more like an agency in that they handle matching of doulas to clients and handle contracts and payments.   For this blog, I looked at 12 areas of business and gave my thoughts on how the agency doula relates to each. {For purposes of this blog series I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

  • Income – Most doulas in a collective do not share any portion of the fee for their services. They might however owe a due that is paid monthly or yearly to be part of the collective. 
  • Marketing Efforts – Marketing efforts are usually a combined effort between the group and the individual doula. Often doulas in a collective can share marketing efforts by listing their services on a central website and holding group meet the doula events.  The ability to share marketing efforts is often one of the top benefits that draw doulas into a collective.
  • Doula CollectiveBrand – The responsibility of managing , protecting and promoting the brand is usually the responsibility of all of the members of the collective.
  • Reputation – If the doula member represents herself as a member of the collective then she can impact the reputation of the brand. If she represents herself as an individual doula then she will impact her own personal company.
  • Backup Doula – One of the top benefits for joining a collective is to establish a solid backup network within the collective.
  • Input on How the Business is Managed - Each doula in the collective will manage their own business.  The management of the collective itself is usually done collectively by all of the group members.  In some cases, the collective will elect officers who will serve the role of collective manager(s) for their term of office. 
  • Doula Contracts – In most cases, contracts are handled by the individual doula in a collective.
  • Client Acquisition – The responsibility of finding clients is shared between the collective and the independent doula.
  • Client Fit – Some collectives have a matching process where a manager or volunteer processes inquiries and matches them with collective members. Other collectives are very open with the information that they provide about each doula in the collective and allow the client to contact the doula(s) that they are interested in.
  • Schedule Flexibility – Doulas that join collectives generally have complete control over their own schedule. She can book her calendar as full as she desires (or is able to). 
  • Job Security – A doula in a collective is her own boss. This means that she creates job security for herself.
  • Testimonials - All testimonials are owned by the independent doula. If she receives a positive testimonial it will always be a benefit to her business and won’t have to be used to grow a group.   She can grow her testimonials for her own business on her website and other sites like Yelp and

    Things to consider when joining a collective

    • Collective often have requirements for membership that include participation in both volunteer and marketing activities. It is important to know the requirements of the collective and to be able to fulfill the requirements.
    • Having a network of doulas to pull for backup is usually considered one of the top benefits for joining a collective; however I would make sure that you are comfortable with the backup that you are using before using any member of the collective. If the backup doesn’t not perform well it could be a reflection on your individual business and not the collective.
    • A collective can be a great fit if you want to run your own business, but would like the support system of a group.

     Read more about other ways to work as a doula.



    How to Work as a Doula - Agency Doulas {3 in a 5 part series}

    Agency doulas are doulas that work in one or more doula agencies. In some cases, they might also have their own businesses, but get client referrals from the agencies which they are members.  For this blog, I looked at 12 areas of business and gave my thoughts on how the agency doula relates to each. {For purposes of this blog series I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

    • Income – The management of a doula group generally keeps a percentage of the fee that is collected for doula services. This fee varies between groups.  I have seen percentages of anywhere from 5% to 20%.  The payment process also varies between groups.  Groups may pay a percentage after the fee is collected from the client, hold off until the services are complete, make payments on a bi-monthly schedule or any variation of these.  Payments are generally made by the clients to the management of the group and then distributed to individual doulas, but sometimes payments are collected by individual doulas.   While the payment amount and strategy varies, the main point is that an individual doula does not keep the entire fee paid by the client.
    • Marketing Efforts – Marketing efforts are generally handled by the management of the doula group. Individual doula members usually do not incur their own marketing expenses.  Sometimes individual doulas are asked to participate in marketing events such as a meet and greet.
    Working for a Doula Agency - Part 3 in our How to Work as a Doula Blog Series
    • Brand and Reputation – Branding for a doula group is handled by the management of the group. This includes setting up the group name, logo, and website.  Maintaining the brand identity of the group is the responsibility of the management
    • Reputation - The reputation of the group is something that can be impacted both positively and negatively by all members of the group. A doula that stands out as a leader in the area and one that has developed a positive reputation in the community can impact the reputation of the entire group.  Conversely, a doula that creates a negative reputation in the community can create a negative reputation for her group.
    • Backup Doula – Most doula groups have a backup system within the membership. Each member is usually able to use one or more group members as their backup.
    • Input on How the Business is Managed – The amount of input that the individual doula can have on her group varies from group to group. The management of the group might allow for a lot of input from members, no input or some input.
    • Doula Contracts – Contracts are another factor that varies between groups. Many groups have a standard contract that each member must use.  Other groups allow the individual doulas to use their own contracts though this seems to be less common that a standard group contract.
    • Client Acquisition – The responsibility of finding clients in a doula group is usually is that of the management. Individual doulas might be required to attend client meet and greets, teas or speed dating events, but usually are not expected to organize these events.   Most doula groups have one point of contract for inquiry about services.  From that point the management either matches a client and a doula or distributes the client’s information out to the doulas in the group for them to decide whether to setup an interview.
    • Client Fit – In some doula groups, matching a doula with a client is done by the management of the group. In other groups that process of interviewing and deciding upon fit is left up to the individual doulas. 
    • Schedule Flexibility – Scheduling is another factor that varies from group to group. Usually an individual doula can express her scheduling preferences to the management which will be factored into the matching of clients.
    • Job Security – From what I have seen, most members of a doula group are contractors working for the group. They are not employees.  This means that usually doula group members can be released from the group at the will of the management.   The individual doula may or may not be asked to sign a contract to work with the group.
    • Testimonials – Like so many things, the ownership of client testimonials varies within a group. Some individual doulas keep testimonials for their work on sites like and Yelp while other groups require testimonials to be stored on the group’s account at testimonials sites.


    Things to Consider Before Joining a Group:

    • Thoroughly review all contracts that you are asked to sign. Be especially aware of any type of non-compete language that is included in contracts that could prevent you from working as a doula if you leave the group.
    • Get all of your questions answered about payment. For example, if a client does not pay or disputes the payment with the doula group will the individual doula receive payment. 
    • Communicate your expectations for scheduling with group management. If you expect to have 2 clients a month, the group management needs to know.  The group might not be able to satisfy your goals or might want to book your calendar with more clients that you are comfortable taking.
    • Learn about the culture of the group and find out if it fits your personally and how you want to work as a doula.
    • Learn about any behavior standard that might exist in the group. Examples include how interviews are supposed to be done, how long after the birth labor doulas should stay and if a postpartum visit is routinely done by labor doulas.

    Wondering about working as an Independent Doula? Check out blog 2 in our series about working as a doula. 

    How to Work as a Doula - Independent Doulas {2 in a 5 part series}

    Independent doulas are doulas that work on their own.  They aren't part of a group, agency or collective.  For this blog, I looked at 12 areas of business and gave my thoughts on how the independent doula relates to each. {For purposes of this blog series I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

  • Income - An independent doula keeps 100% of the income that is earned. 
  • Expenses – Independent doulas have to cover all of the costs associated with starting a business.  This could include legal fees, insurance, marketing costs, continuing education etc.
  • Marketing Efforts – Small business owners often incur marketing costs in order to build their brand and find clients. All of the costs associated with marketing will be the responsibility of the independent doula.  Marketing decisions will also be solely up to the independent doula.  This means that she will retain all creative control over this process.  She will be able to decide how to market her business and will have the flexibility to change her marketing plan as she sees fit.
  • How to work as a Doula - The Independent Doula

  • Brand – An independent doula has complete control over her brand. Every time she works as a doula she is representing her brand and her company
  • Reputation -  She does not have to share a reputation with all of the doulas in a group.  Independent doulas are able to develop relationships with clients, care providers and other professionals and growth their referral network which will benefit their own business. 
  • Backup Doula – Backup doulas sometimes can be a struggle for independent doulas. It is their responsibility to create relationships with other doulas and develop a relationship with one or more doulas to provide backup.  Usually, independent doulas use other independent doulas as their backup(s).
  • Input on How the Business is managed – The independent doula has complete control over how her business is managed. This is complete freedom to create the business that she wants.  A drawback to this freedom is the burden of being the only one with ideas for the business.   Doulas that work independently can feel overwhelmed with the day to day to-dos of business management.
  • Doula Contracts – Contracts are an important part of a doula's working relationship with both her clients and her backup doulas. The independent doula has total control over this process.  She can set up safeguards in her contracts to protect her business and define the working relationships in her business.  It is her responsibility to create these contracts and use them properly.
  • Client Acquisition – Finding clients and generating income is completely in the hands of the independent doula. It is her responsibility to develop methods for finding clients.  This includes marketing, social media, referral networks etc. If she is having a problem finding clients she is the only one who can fix this problem.
  • Client Fit – The independent doula has complete control over who she takes on as a client. She can be as discerning as she wants and decide on her own criteria for accepting a client.
  • Schedule Flexibility – An independent doula has complete control over her schedule. She can book her calendar as full as she desires (or is able to).  Doula’s that own their own businesses are able to schedule meetings to meet their own needs which include timing and location.
  • Job Security – Independent doulas are their own boss. This means that she creates job security for herself.
  • Testimonials – All testimonials are owned by the independent doula. If she receives a positive testimonial it will always be a benefit to her business and won’t have to be used to grow a group.   She can grow her testimonials for her own business on her website and other sites like Yelp and

  •  Things to consider before working as an independent doula

    • As an independent doula, you are responsible for all aspects of running a business. This requires a lot of determination, motivation, and drive.  I believe that to be a successful independent doula you must be a self-starter and passionate about running your own business.   Running your own business takes a good amount of organization and discipline. 
    • Many independent doulas often feel lonely. It is good to connect with other independent doulas for backup and support.
    • Working as an independent doula often requires a lot of effort up front in order to get a steady stream of doula inquiries and clients. If you can’t afford the extra time needed to establish your business it might not be the best choice for you.

     Read more about other ways to work as a doula.

    How To Work as a Doula - Doula Working Arrangements {Part 1 in a 5 Part Series}

    How to work as a doulaFor the next five weeks we will use the YourDoulaBag blog to explore the question “How Can I Work as a Doula?”  This is a common question that I often hear asked by new doulas, those interested in becoming a doula and existing doulas that might not be satisfied with their current arrangement. Working as a doula can exist in several forms and in this blog we will go through each option.

    Data for this blog series was collected from over 180 doulas via a survey hosted on Survey Monkey.  The doulas which completed the survey were a mix of new and experienced doulas and were a mix of certified (52%) and uncertified doulas (48%).  If you took park in this survey, thank you for your response!   

     {For purposes of this blog I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}


    There are 3 ways in which most doulas work.

    These are:

    The Independent Doula

    The independent doula works alone.  She runs her own business and has complete control over business decisions.  Independent doulas might get help in certain aspects of business, but most doulas handle most of the daily tasks for the business. 

    Pros of working as an Independent Doula (as reported in the survey) include:

    • Own boss
    • Control over choices for services and prices
    • Independence
    • Don’t have to coordinate schedules
    • No collective decisions
    • Get to keep all of the money, independence and control over business

     Cons of working as an Independent Doula (as reported in the survey) include:


    Quotes from Independent Doulas

    “I’m my own boss, I work when I want with who I want and the way I want” Paloma Fitzpatrick

    “I like being my own boss and not being responsible to anyone but myself and my family.”

    “I choose which clients I take and they know I’m going to be the one with them at the birth.  It builds relationships”

    “I want to be in charge”

    “I am nervous about getting enough work and having a steady income”

    Doula Agencies

    Doula agencies are groups of doulas that usually have one or more owners/managers (I’ll use the term owner for this blog) and several doulas that work as contractors.  A percentage of the client’s fee for services goes to the owner and the remaining portion goes to the doula that performs the service.   Business decisions are made by the owner.

    Pros of working in a Doula Agency (as reported in the survey) include:

    • Comradery support of other doulas
    • Get to have days off call
    • Marketing done for you
    • No business responsibilities

    Cons of working in a Doula Agency (as reported in the survey) include:

    • Have to pay part of fee to owner
    • Backup doulas aren’t personal choice
    • Delay in getting paid

    Quotes from Doula that work in Agencies

    “Participating in a group helps ensure that I have reliable backup, and provides a greater reach as far as marketing and community outreach”

    “I wanted a quick way to establish myself in the community and find clients quickly”

    “I didn’t want to carry the burden of marketing and networking all by myself.  I’m a team player and thrive in the environment.”

    “The backups that I work with aren’t necessarily doulas who have similar personalities or backgrounds as me.  If I were working independently, I would choose back-ups who are similar to me.

    “I make a bit less per client than I would on my own.”

    Doula Collectives

    For this blog, Doula Collectives describe groups of independent doulas that come together to provide support for marketing, backup and education.   Management of the collective is usually made by the members.  Doulas that join the collective usually have some type of fee to belong to the group and/or requirement of their time for volunteer or marketing work.

    Pros of working in a Doula Collectiv(as reported in the survey) include:

    • Support
    • Networking
    • Backup

    Cons of working in a Doula Collective (as reported in the survey) include:

    • Communication challenges
    • Jealousy
    • Challenges finding time to meet

    Quotes from doulas that are part of a Doula Collective

    “Can maintain independent businesses but still support each other with marketing large events as well as backup support”

    “Having our group allows us more opportunities for professional development, accountability, reliable backups and support.”

    “Pooling advertising dollars to inform the mainstream public about the benefits of doula care.”

    “Strife between experienced doulas and new doulas (DRAMA that I could live without!)”

    “The best thing is hosting events together, having someone to bounce ideas off of, encouraging each other.”

    Other options for Doula Work

    There are a few other options for working as a doula which don’t seem to be as common as the three options described above. 


    Partnerships are when two (or more) doulas work together and share all business decisions.   Often doulas that work in partnerships also share clients and divide time on call so that they have more scheduled time off call.


    Many hospitals and birth centers have volunteer doula programs.  Doula that work in these programs often work for an assigned shift and are matched with clients when they arrive at the birthing location.  Volunteer doula program often require doula volunteers to attend trainings and follow program policies.

    Agency Owner

    Many doula agencies are owned by active doulas that divide their time between duties of running the business and taking on their own clients.

    Next in the Series

    There are several options for working as a doula and in the next blog of the series we will explore the Independen Doula option in greater detail.  If you enjoy this series and the accompanying video please subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel. 


    Role of a Doula – Helping Families Find Their Voice and Use It

    In labor and birth, it is so important for families to express their preferences and get their questions out and answered.  This can be very difficult.  Some people completely forget their questions when a nurse or doctor walks into the room.  Others feel intimated by medical personnel.  Still others don’t want to cause any problems and therefore, keep quiet when they really want to speak.  One of the roles of a doula is to support a birthing family so that they can find their voice and use it.

    A doulas role in labor

    4 Ways in which a doula can help their clients find their voice and use it

    1) Prenatal Preparation – Finding their Voice

    Most doulas meet with their clients before labor one of more times to really determine how best they can help mom and her partner during labor and birth.  During these prenatal appointments, the topics that are often discussed include birthing preferences, fears and strategies for the big day.  This is a great time for mom and her partner to define their voice.  They can determine their top priorities and figure out how they can best communicate this information to their providers.  This is a great time to identify questions and topics that should really be discussed prior to labor.  During prenatal appointments, doulas can help point out questions that should be asked in the office prior to labor.  Mom and her partner can practice finding their voice during office visits with their care providers.

    2) Prenatal Preparation – Role Play Scenarios

    I believe the most effective way to prepare for communication during labor and birth is to use role play.  A doula can use her experience with supporting families in labor to set up a very realistic scenario for a communication challenge role play.  Mom and partner can talk through how they would use their voice in each situation and decide what would work best.  There might be some situations where the partner is better at leading the conversation and others where mom should take the lead.  Using role play is a wonderful way to work through possible uncomfortable and difficult situations and also help couples develop a nice working relationship with their doula.

    3) Prompt a Conversation During Labor and Birth – the ‘Play Dumb’ technique

    As a doula there are times when I need to remind my clients about their preferences or about a question that they want to ask.  The role of a doula is not to speak for their clients, but they can prompt their clients and assist them in starting a conversation.  I call this “playing dumb” and I find that it works very well. 


    For example, my client might want to have a conversation with the OB on call during labor about their preferences for delayed cord clamping.  The OB might walk into the room and ask if they had any questions to which they reply “No”.  I know that they want to discuss the clamping issue so I could say “They want delayed cord clamping!” or I could use the ‘play dumb’ technique and say to my clients “What were you saying about delaying clamping?”  This question gently reminds them about the conversation that they wanted to have without actually speaking for them.  They could also choose to ignore the question if they change their mind or this will actually help them get that conversation started.   The ‘play dumb’ technique must be explained during the doula prenatal appointments so that they understand how it works.  It is important that clients know that the doula isn’t actually forgetting their preferences, but just reminding them.  From my experience, most partners love this technique.

    4) Ask For Time

    Many people ‘lose their voice’ when care providers are in the room.  They might actually forget what they want to say (or ask) or they might be uncomfortable expressing themselves.  A great technique to help in this situation is to ask for time alone.  Unless it is an emergency, care providers can usually spare 3-5 minutes for mom and her partner to speak alone.  During this alone time, mom and her partner can regroup and plan the questions they need to ask or develop a strategy for how they will communicate their preferences.  While a doula can help during this extra time, it is important that the birthing couple also knows that they can ask for the doula to leave as well. 

    Growing a Doula Referral Network

    The task of finding new clients can be quite daunting. There are so many ways to go about it.  You could create on a stunning website with top notch SEO, setup an ad in Facebook, distribute thousands of brochures to local OB offices or even hand out business cards to pregnant women you see in the aisle of the grocery store.  There are truly countless ways to get the word out about your doula services.  The strategy that I find most successful is growing a doula referral network.

    Grow A Doula Referral Network

    A doula referral network is a group of professionals that are willing to refer clients to you.  Creating this network takes a good amount of time and effort.  However, the resulting network can ultimately create a steady stream of client inquiries and hopefully a calendar booked solid.

    Get the Step by Step Plan


     Every month, I see the power of a great referral source when I finish co-teaching a childbirth class.  In my role, I teach a breakout session to partners.  The primary teacher is a labor and delivery nurse at one of the hospitals where my clients often give birth.  I have developed a great relationship with this nurse which led to this co-teaching opportunity.  At the end of every childbirth class there are always several of the couples which approach me about my doula services.   The relationship with that one referral partner has become so strong that I could book myself solid some months just from her referrals alone!   Each of us has the power to create strong referral partners like that, but I believe that it takes a plan and a concerted effort.

    Step by step plan

      • Schedule weekly time in your business to work on building this network. By dedicating your efforts on this goal you will achieve it.  Without taking the time it won’t happen.  I suggest choosing a day as your ‘growing your network’ I schedule mine for Wednesdays.   
      • Make a list of professionals to target. This list could include other doulas, childbirth educators, chiropractors, acupuncturists, midwives, OBs, prenatal yoga instructors, massage therapist, prenatal fitness educators and lactation educators and so on. 
      • Rank the list in order of easiest to most difficult. Your personal massage therapist might be the easiest while the OB group might be the most difficult.
    • Create a presentation.
    • Practice it until you feel comfortable with it. (this might be once or 25 times – however long it takes keep practicing until you feel comfortable)
    • Setup the in person or phone meeting.
    • Execute!
    • Act on any to-do items that resulted from the meeting. If you promised to do something as a result of the meeting, DO IT WELL and TIMELY.  Examples of this include: give business cards, do a presentation to their clients, send posters, send an email etc.  In other words, deliver an awesome product and really impress them.
    • Schedule regular check-ins with your partners. This could be a phone call, visit or even a meal together.  Don’t give them the opportunity to forget about you my losing touch.
    • Thank them! When your partner sends a referral your way thank them. You could send an email, send a handwritten thank you note or pop a Starbucks gift card in the mail.  This is a key step in the process.

      Get the Step by Step Plan
      August 19, 2015


      Doula Business ›

      The things that DOULAS say

      You are likely a doula if you say any of the following.

      1. I'll be there as long as I'm not at a birth
      2. What day is it today? I had a birth this week.
      3. Your baby knows when you to come.
      4. I support all kinds of birth
      5. That's a beautiful placenta
      6. Trust your body
      7. Your body was designed to give birth
      8. There really isn't anything you can do to put yourself into labor.
      9. Ultrasounds in the last few weeks of pregnancy can be inaccurate. 
      10. Your due date is an estimate
      11. I need coffee
      12. Stay limp and loose, like a rag doll
      13. Know your options for birth
      14. Your birth experience matters
      15. You will remember your birth for the rest of your life
      16. Let me help!
      17. Ride the contractions like a wave.
      18. You are strong
      19. Let me grab my balls
      20. I love my job!

      What would you add to the list?

      Like this list...Check out the Doula Elevator Speech 


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