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Careers in Birth

Doula, Doctor, Midwife, Childbirth Educator, Lactation Consultant, Nurse

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Updated April 22, 2014

Sister and Newborn Sibling
Photo © Kati Molin - Fotolia.com

Choosing one of the careers in birth is on the minds of many. Pregnancy and birth are times that are very special to women and their families. Many women and men, after living through this experience, want to help others through the miracle of birth. Here is a brief look at some of your options that don't require college degrees.

Childbirth Educator: 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. Many women take 1-4 years to finish a program, most are done before the end of 2 years. Costs average about $800 for certification, not including supplies. You can work either for a doctor/midwife, a hospital/birth center, or have a private practice.

"I wanted to help other women experience birth in a positive way, but I didn't want to have to be up late at night or be pulled away from my family." - Kathy, new childbirth educator

Labor Doula: 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, since we don't plan when birth happens. Most organizations have this as a 2 year training. Costs of training can be fairly inexpensive if you host a workshop, or can run between $400-1200.

"It's very hard work, but I love it! If I don't come home sore I wonder what I did wrong. Seeing the new family is so rewarding and knowing that they invited me to share that experience with them is amazing!" - Amanda, labor doula

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. Somewhat flexible hours.

"I remember just needing someone to help me get my life in order! Having a postpartum doula to do the things I couldn't focus on because of the new baby was a big help. It fits nicely with my life and it's not many hours away from my family." - Yvonne, postpartum doula

Lactation Support: 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 leading 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.

"Breastfeeding isn't always easy, my job is to help prepare women for the job and to help ensure it goes smoothly or to correct small bumps in the road." - Barbara, lactation consultant

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.

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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