Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What do we know about doulas?

Doulas, not the benefits of their services on laboring or postpartum women, were the subject of a national study -- purportedly the first of its kind -- that appeared in the May 2005 issue of Women's Health Issues (abstract here; full article here). As an aside, I am pleased to note that I serve on a board with one of the primary investigators for the study and have several friends who participated in the survey. This study hits very close to home on a lot of levels.

A nice summary of the study appears in this press release.

Generalizing the average doula from the study results, she is:

white (93.8%)
40 years of age
a mother
working another paying job in addition to being a doula
in possession of a college degree

Additionally, 30% of doulas report household incomes over $75,000. One quarter of respondents have plans to become a midwife in the future.

Putting on my most vicious lens, doulas look to me like the new travel or real estate agents: middle-aged, middle-class women whose kids are in school, whose husbands are carrying the household expenses, who aren't using their college degrees, who are looking for something to do.

Doula work requires little training, has huge emotional appeal (what woman can resist the excuse to revisit her own pregnancy and baby days?), and has enough business elements to feel like a career.

Anyone bristling yet? The distinction I see between the distinterested characterization above and the picture of doulas that a data-driven study can't capture is the passion piece. Doulas could not just as easily work at a bookstore as with pregnant women, or fill their empty afternoons with scrapbooking instead of postpartum care.

Most doulas I know wish they could do it more than they already do -- and not because of the money! Doulas fall in love with every potential client who contacts them and invites them to assist on their birth journey. Turning down a client feels like rejecting a friend. Too many weeks or months between births and doulas get restless and empty. Working other, better-paying jobs is merely a way to offset the costs of doula work.

The average gross annual income of a certified doula in 2002 was $3,645. That's not a job (or second job, as the case may be). That's not a second career (though it may be that, too). That is certainly not a way simply to fill up empty afternoons (because don't forget there are many all-nighters, early mornings and late evenings). That is a calling. Any doula will tell you that.


Blogger T$ said...

Hey, I participated in that study! Glad to see the final outcome of the study.


1:30 PM  
Blogger Dynamic Doula said...

white (93.8%) -- Yes
40 years of age -- Not me, 28
married -- Y
a mother -- Y
working another paying job in addition to being a doula -- N
in possession of a college degree -- N

And I do plan to be a midwife, I'll be assisting a midwife here in town in the next few months. :)

I never saw the study, I didn't see it go through the doula lists... I'll have to read it!

12:16 PM  
Anonymous AhavahEhyeh said...

How nice to find this site. I am a doula and I was just trying to find out a bit more about this blogging thing....

Anyway, yes, I was bristling. Becoming a doula requires little training? Not for any doula worth a salt! I am currently trying to get my certification while staying at home with my 2 yr old---and before I have my second baby in August. I'll tell you, I had a much easier time doing the 9-5, but it was not near so fulfilling.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Jessica K said...

white (93.8%) -- Yes
40 years of age -- Not me, 27
married -- Yes
a mother -- Yes
working another paying job in addition to being a doula -- No
in possession of a college degree --No

And I also fall into the 1 quarter of doulas who aspires to be a midwife-as for this being "something to do with my time" ha! No "hobby" or "busy work" would cause me to be away from my family on major holidays, or go 40+ hrs with no sleep, or leave me in tears everytime (mostly of joy, sometimes of frustration)-like someone said, it's not a job, or an "interest", it's a *calling*

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to sound persnickity, but wasn't it a 'survey'?

5:12 PM  
Anonymous chickeedoodle said...

What do you mean little training?! I have spent more time/money on training, continuing education, membership dues, certification, etc than you would think! Any *good* doula, and yes there are bad ones, will have on-going training, just like other professions.

Do I love this work - you bet! You hit it right on that you have to have passion to be a doula. It is totally a calling.

I'm suprised at the age however, I know LOTS of doulas, and I'd have to say the average age is more around 30. Many, many of us do NOT have children, which can be such a blessing to people who hire us. (for we are not reliving our births.) It can also be a hindrence since we don't know *exactly* what they are going through - but can any doula know that? All births are so unique.

I wonder if this was a national survey? I know so many doulas who do this for a living, not as a second job...

3:23 AM  

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