Doulaing the DoulaDONA International Birth Doula Training Workshops

Beginning Doula Workshops

Course Content


The workshop is designed to help participants become expert labor support providers. It utilizes texts, your 300+ page reference manual, videos, slides, games, activities, and role play to build theoretical knowledge and practical skills. It is one step in the process of certifying as a birth doula with DONA International.

During this intensive three day workshop, students will:

  • Discuss the emotions and psychological processes associated with labor and birth.
  • Discuss the role of the labor support person during the prenatal, labor and delivery, and post partum periods; emphasizing the importance of appropriate, culturally sensitive support.
  • Practice hands on skills in positioning and comfort measures.
  • Learn how to enable women and their partners to cope with complications in pregnancy, labor and early postpartum.
  • Describe the doula’s scope of practice and ethical standards.
  • Learn the practical aspects of setting up a doula practice, including the establishment of fees and records, finding your first clients, and planning your own first steps. (Over 50+ pages of business resources!)
  • Not have training in clinical skills, which are outside the scope of practice of the doula.

A Doula…

  • recognizes birth as a transformational life experience.
  • understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a person in labor.
  • assists a laboring person in preparing and carrying out plans for the birth.
  • stays by the side of the laboring person throughout labor without a change of shift.
  • provides emotional support, practical comfort measures, and objective viewpoint and information to aid decision making.
  • supports the laboring person’s partner(s) in their own experience of the birth
  • enhances the birthing family’s communication with clinical care providers.
  • treats a person’s birth experience as a source of positive memories, rich rewards and feelings of accomplishment.
  • weaves together the needs of the laboring person, partner(s), and clinical care provider.

Course Prerequisites

Do I need to have completed a childbirth class?


Many doula workshops do require that you are enrolled or have completed a childbirth class prior to your doula workshop. For DONA certification, all doulas must take a childbirth class not as a pregnant person. I recommend, but do not require, that participants attend a quality childbirth class before taking the workshop. I also expect that you have read over the list of “things expected to know before attending” in the brochure or listed below. Participants get the most out of the workshop when they are prepared and have a working knowledge of childbirth and its related procedures. For example, I will discuss how a doula helps a mother who has an epidural. I will not cover information that would be in a childbirth class, such as epidural administration, side effects, or when a mother can receive an epidural. I expect you to assess whether you are ready to attend the workshop, and have the knowledge that would be covered in a quality childbirth course. If you are uncertain about your readiness, please do not hesitate to or phone, I am willing to help.

I want this workshop to be a very satisfying experience for you and being prepared can make a big difference!


How do I prepare for the training?

These concepts are important to know before attending. A good way to assess your understanding is to explain each of these concepts to another person (by writing or talking). If you can do that in an organized way, your working knowledge is where it needs to be:

  • Anatomy of the reproductive system and breasts
  • Physiology of pregnancy, birth, postpartum and breastfeeding
  • Definitions of medical terms regarding labor
  • Common procedures and tests used during normal birth, their risks and benefits
  • Intravenous pain medication, administration and effects
  • Epidural pain medication, administration and effects
  • Procedures for a cesarean birth
  • Normal newborn appearance and procedures
  • Basic relaxation techniques, breathing patterns and other comfort measures for labor
  • Benefits of breastfeeding

You can build your knowledge by reading the required and recommended books; viewing birth videos, taking a hospital tour, listening to women tell their birth stories, watching birth videos on YouTube, or taking a birth class meant for parents. Past participants say that the absolute best way to feel prepared is by taking Amy’s Introduction to Childbirth course.

The Pretest is a self-assessment tool available on the Already Registered? page. It is designed to help you focus on areas where you need to deepen your understanding and to help me adapt each workshop to the needs of the participants. It lets you know what I think is important.

You cannot over-prepare for this workshop! Nurses with twenty years experience find they learn a lot that they didn’t know before. However, the beauty of the training is that people who have never been to a birth or had a child have a fulfilling and moving experience. If you are uncertain about your readiness, please do not hesitate to  or phone me, I am willing to help.

Required Texts

All participants are required to read three books prior to the workshop. Many of these books are available at your local library.

  • The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman Through Childbirthby Penny Simkin (4th edition)*
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley and Ann Kepler* OR   The Mother of All Pregnancy Books by Ann Douglas (2nd edition)*
  • Special Women: the Role of the Professional Labor Assistant by Polly Perez and Cheryl Snedeker OR  The Doula Book by Marshall Klaus, John Kennell and Phyllis Klaus*

Another great book full of assistance for those supporting the mother in labor is Polly Perez’ The Nurturing Touch At Birth. I love the new edition! If you have not attended a consumer-oriented or woman-centered childbirth class, we highly recommend that you read Ina May Gaskin’s Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth*.  Best evidence is reviewed in Henci Goer and Amy Romano’s Optimal Care in Childbirth* and Simkin and Ancheta’s Labor Progress Handbook. I also highly recommend Kimberly Seals-Allers, The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy to increase empathy of how pregnancy and birth are different for Black or African American women.

*required for DONA certification, but not for this course. See complete list here.

If you are interested in watching films, I highly recommend the documentaries, “Pregnant In America” (2009) and “Orgasmic Birth”(2008) or its shorter sister version “Ecstatic Birth” (2011). “Born In The USA” (2000) is a very revealing PBS funded movie. I show“Giving Birth” by Suzanne Arms during the workshop.

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Course Schedule


A detailed outline is included in your registration confirmation.

Day 1 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (one hour lunch break).
Day 2 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (one hour lunch break)
Day 3 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (one hour lunch break)

You will be provided with a completion certificate at the end of the workshop. The workshop length has been approved by DONA for 21 hours of instruction. I have been told that DONA contact hours are accepted as continuing education units by ALACE, AAHCC, CAPPA and Lamaze International for re-certification of childbirth educators. However, please check with your certifying organization to be sure.


It is a good beginning and I have a much better idea of what I'm taking on. I've also learned so many new skills and tools to take with me to the next births not to mention tons of resources to help me expand my knowledge and skill base in the future.