Take a look at other articles in this series:
– Part 1: What is a doula?
– Part 2: What kind of qualifications do doulas typically have?
– Part 3: When and how can a doula help me on my journey?
– Part 4: What does the research say?
While the doula profession is not regulated by a governing body, and there is no requirement to have a followed any formal training, the majority of doulas have in fact trained with a recognised association such as DONA International in the United States or AFA (‘Association pour les Formations à l’Accompagnement’) in Belgium.
These courses typically cover evidence-based training in breastfeeding and basic childbirth education; communication skills; physiology of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum; practical hands-on techniques and more; and involve in-person workshops, home study, and coursework and exams to achieve certification.
In Belgium, the doula training from the AFA includes 18 hours of in-person training over a period of around 6 months, followed by three unpaid ‘certifying’ accompaniments before a doula is ‘fully fledged’.
As well as foundational training, many doulas also invest in continuous development, following other related workshops and training courses that expand their knowledge and skills.
For example, Julie Denil and Sophie Fraschina from A doula in Belgium began their doula journey by training with the AFA in Belgium, and over the years, also trained with Isabelle Challut and ‘Karine-la-sage-femme’ doula and midwife from Canada. They have also followed workshops about the 4th trimester (i.e. the postnatal period), perinatal loss and ‘baby spinning’ (techniques to help babies find the best position for an easy birth), and have training in perinatal yoga and working with a birth ball.
Stéphanie Vuylsteke of Libellune, who also started her journey with the AFA in Belgium, has also followed training with the known and respected natural birth advocate Dr Michel Odent, further training in ‘haptonomy’ (childbirth preparation throughout pregnancy and birth based on the relation of tenderness that exists between the baby, mother, and father/partner), and is currently following advanced study of breastfeeding.
While a solid foundational training will ensure that a doula is well equipped – practically, mentally and emotionally – to support a woman (and her partner) at such an important time, it’s important to remember that the value a doula brings is less about what she can ‘do’, and more about her presence, her approach, and above all, how she acts and reacts to the woman/couple she is supporting.
It’s the relationship between the woman/couple and their doula that will make all the difference, not a list of qualifications or even recommendations from others.
This is why it’s so important to take your time when choosing a doula. Think about what’s important to you, the experience you hope to have, and be prepared to interview some doulas to find one that you feel comfortable with, and who you feel will best support you and respect your wishes.
Are all doulas mothers themselves?
While many doulas are mothers themselves, not all are, and being a mother is not a pre-requisite to be able to support a woman through pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
Doulas are women who are passionate about supporting other women, and foundational courses provide in-depth information about pregnancy, the birth process and breastfeeding. Furthermore, many doulas-in-training have a mentor to support them in the early days of their journey to being fully ready to accompany a future mother.
Later in the series, we’ll go into more detail about some of the questions you might want to ask potential doula candidates.
Check back soon for the next in the series of our Ultimate guide to having a doula in Belgium!