If you are getting your DONA International birth doula certification, one of the steps to certify is to have a basic knowledge of childbirth. Some people come into the certification process and are able to opt-out of this requirement. To do that, you need to be a labor and delivery nurse, a midwife, or a certified childbirth educator. If you do not meet those requirements, you have two other options: Take an Intro to Childbirth course, usually taught just prior to a birth doula training, or to sit through a normal series of childbirth classes, while not a pregnant participant (meaning you can’t count when you took a childbirth class for your own pregnancy).
Here are a few things that you might not have thought about when looking at these options:
With an Intro class, you will usually pay a fee to take the six to eight-hour course. These costs can vary depending on which program with which you are taking your birth doula training. (Though you could also take the Intro from a different place than you take the birth doula workshop.) A childbirth class series, may or may not charge you a fee to observe the class. Some childbirth educators look at allowing doulas to observe their classes as a way to help serve the community and do not charge unless the doula is looking to get a copy of their handouts. Other childbirth educators have had bad experiences where doulas take up precious class time and make the experience less than stellar for the rest of the class.
The whole point of the requirement is for you to be able to learn as much as you can about the process of birth so that you can focus on your doula training and think of questions related to how what your trainer is saying relates to your work as a doula, and not trying to wonder how a position works physiologically. As an observer of a childbirth class, you are there to observe. You are not there to ask questions or interrupt the class in any way. If you have questions, write them down and wait until the class is over. At an Intro class, the course is designed for doulas, so you are encouraged to ask questions as they come up and as they may pertain to your practice. Most people say that this can be beneficial because they are able to get their questions answered before they have to try to move on and don’t have a firm foundation in the concepts being taught.
The difference in perspective is that in a childbirth class, the participants need to know what they need to do to get through labor; as a doula, you will want to know how to help a client from the viewpoint of labor support. Everything in the Intro class is geared towards doula work versus an individual in labor. This can really make a huge difference, not only in the information that is shared but in how that information is shared. This is difficult to explain when looking at a well-written list of topics covered. For example, talking about the length of labor in a childbirth class is all about how can an individual cope with the pain; for a doula, it is about the pain management aspects certainly, but also, how do you plan your life and your family’s lives to be gone for the average length of labor and what do you do if that is longer than you had anticipated; how do you stay awake all night, or cope with fewer bathrooms breaks, etc. Yet, both would simply be listed as Length of Labor.
Materials Used in Class
There are usually handouts in both classes. The Intro Class will have handouts that are typically included but you may be required to pay extra for the handouts in an observed childbirth series. The thought that goes into picking the handouts and materials, down to the videos that are shown, are likely to be very different. A parent in a childbirth class needs very different handouts and videos that a person who is studying to be a doula. Sometimes doulas describe the videos in the Intro classes to be more in-depth and intense than what they have been shown in a childbirth class. This may vary, but is an important question to ask if you choose to attend a childbirth class.
A childbirth class is frequently taught by an instructor who is teaching you about a particular philosophy or method, or perhaps from the standpoint of a particular facility. While an Intro class may be taught by someone who is influenced by particular methods, these are not the main influence of the course materials, in fact, many different options should be addressed, allowing you a wider view of some of the options that your clients may have available to them.
Time & Location
Having an Intro to Childbirth Class taught in one day, particularly when attached to your doula training can be beneficial. You can get it done in one big weekend. This prevents you from having to find and pay a sitter or wrangle friends and family multiple nights over the course of several weeks. Though it’s important to understand that sometimes childbirth classes are available where you are and this may make more sense.
In the end, only you can decide which works out best for you and your situation. Sometimes you start out with one and change your mind later. Other times simply due to geography or finances, one is a better option.
Tips if You’re Observing a Childbirth Class
- Offer to bring snacks
- Offer to help clean up
- Do not ask questions in class
- Be respectful of the educator’s time
- Ask about ideas supplemental materials that may boost your experience
- Do not take the same childbirth class that you have taken before if possible
- Do not try to find clients in the class, though sometimes it happens naturally
- Have paperwork you need filled out by the instructor done ahead of time
- Take responsibility and ensure that the instructor you choose teaches a qualifying class
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