Becoming a Doula

Over the years of running this blog I’ve often gotten emails asking me about how to become a doula. Here is the nitty gritty run down about where to look and how to get started.

So you want to be a doula?

Congrats! It’s an amazing journey, and one of the most direct and fulfilling forms of activism I have found. It’s a blessing to be invited into a families birth experience, and empowering to be help parents have the experience they want.

If you want to be an abortion doula, the directions below won’t exactly apply to you. More information about that is available here.


I’ve recently gotten many emails asking about education requirement for doulas–do you need a college degree? A nursing degree? What major is best? As far as I know there are no educational requirements for enrolling in a doula training. Anyone can sign up and begin the process of becoming a doula through the steps below.

First step: Find a doula training.

While some folks might say that a formal doula training isn’t necessary, I think it’s a good way to get a foundation in the world of doula work. You learn the nuts and bolts of childbirth, watch some cool videos and do great reading. You also get to be in community with all the other doulas in training and get one perspective on what the role of a doula is. There are a few major training organizations out there, and that’s where I would start. While some of these won’t be particularly “radical” (probably won’t be much mention of abortion rights, race, sexuality, etc) it’s a foundation for you to work from. Then you can build community with like-minded doulas and bring your own radical philosophy to your doula work. Doula training will cost you. Mine was about $500 when I did it in 2005. But don’t let that stop you! You can always ask about scholarships, or try and find an organization to sponsor your training. Mine was covered by my college at the time.

For a list of doula organizations that provide trainings (US focused) go here.

Step 2: What about Certification?

You’ll notice when researching doula trainings that all these organizations also mention certification. DONA is especially certification focused. Certification is the process by which doulas become certified by a national organization–basically another stamp of approval. Certification processes vary, but generally they involve more money, paperwork from a certain number of births (from the mom, doctor/midwife, nurses), required reading and book reports, childbirth education class). DONA has certification details here, and they’ve become even more rigorous in the years’ since I did their training.

Certification is all part of the attempt to professionalize and legitimize doula’s and doula work. While I support efforts to legitimize doulas and our work, I am not necessarily an advocate of certification. It’s a cumbersome and costly process. I wrote here about my reasons for not being certified, but the main one is that for me doula work is not a business. It’s a form of activism, something I do as a volunteer, and I have not yet found barriers to my participating in this work as a volunteer without certification. Training is almost always a requirement, but certification has not been.

Whether to get certified is up to you, but don’t let it stop you from beginning the journey. You don’t need to be certified to be considered a doula, and you don’t need to work with DONA to feel legitimate in the work you do.

Step 3: Get to work!

Now that you have done your doula training, it’s time to get into the birth action! I’m a huge proponent of volunteer doula programs, both for new doulas in the making and as a practice overall. These programs (which vary widely) find ways to set volunteer doula’s up with moms who can’t afford to pay for a doula on her own, or might not even know about the services doula’s provide. Some programs set parents up with doulas before the birth, others use an on-call system to connect doulas to laboring parents. These programs are great because you can vary your commitment–if you only have one day a month to offer, no problem! If you want to work with a few births a year–great! They also do the awesome work of getting doula care to folks who wouldn’t otherwise have it.

These programs can unfortunately be hard to find, as many don’t have websites or public information. Know a volunteer doula program not listed here? Email me at radicaldoulaATgmailDOTcom and I’ll add it.

You can find a full list of volunteer doula programs here.