FB Pixel

Birth Doula Skills Module

Childbirth International’s certification programs (Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, and Lactation Counselor) include four modules: Communication Skills; Physiology; Professional Skills; and Business of Birth. Each module has a number of units or topics relevant to your work as a birth and lactation professional. Within a unit, you’ll read the course materials, complete self-guided reflective and critical thinking activities, and view external readings and videos. There may also be additional discussion forums, assignments, quick quizzes, and tests, which are required if you choose to complete the certification requirements.

The Birth Doula Skills module is the third and final module required for students intending to become a Certified Birth Doula.

Topics in Birth Doula Skills

In this module, you will learn about the hands-on and practical skills required when working as a birth doula with clients. The topics covered in the birth doula skills module include:

An explanation for each unit within the Birth Doula Skills module can be found below, together with a table outlining the competencies you will build in each unit.

Getting Started as a Birth Doula

In the first unit of this module, you’ll look at the initial steps to becoming a doula – what your role entails, recognizing the benefits of birth doula support, building relationships, and getting ready to work with your first client. You’ll explore the history of birth support, examine a range of doula business models, consider how to approach the initial contact you have with clients, and begin preparing for working with your first client. You’ll also look at local, regional, and ethical requirements for client confidentiality.

Certification activities in this unit

  • Research the birthing options available in the local community
Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Roles and responsibilities of a doula
  • Describe three different business models for birth doulas
  • Identify the birthing options available to clients in the local community
  • Identify the legal and professional requirements for client confidentiality
  • Understand the history of birth support and how the term “doula” came to be used
  • Describe the benefits of having a doula at a birth and the limitations of the research that has been carried out
  • Describe the elements of the CBI Code of Ethics and Professionalism and how that affects personal work as a doula
  • Evaluate different styles for a doula to use during initial client contact
  • Analyze the local, regional, and ethical requirements for client confidentiality
  • Establish goals for supporting clients planning a hospital, birth center, and home-birth
  • Establish personal boundaries concerning role and responsibilities
  • Maintain client confidentiality

Return to top of page

Working With Clients Prenatally

Working with clients prenatally is an important part of the doula’s role. It is during this period that you help them to identify their goals, their expectations of you, and determine the choices that will help them to have the birth they desire.  In this unit, you’ll look at the elements of the work you do as a doula when building a relationship with a client and setting your boundaries. 

Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Identify factors that impact the effectiveness of the first contact with a potential client
  • Differentiate between goals and expectations of the doula role
  • Identify passive and assertive language in a birth plan
  • List the different types of documentation a doula can use with a client
  • Evaluate the various options for how you can structure client meetings and which ones are most appropriate given other commitmentsAnalyze how conflicts can arise between a client’s goals, their expectations of others supporting them, and the goals, values, or beliefs of the other supportersExplore the impact of language used in a birth plan and how it can affect outcomesReflect on different strategies a client could use to avoid interventions and how this can be communicated to a clientExplore feelings and choices available in circumstances where a client makes a decision or has an expectation of their doula that is beyond the doula’s established boundariesEvaluate personal and professional boundaries
  • Use active listening skills to help a client debrief a previous birth experience
  • Use language that encourages a client to identify concrete and achievable goals
  • Use assertive communication to define goals in a birth plan
  • Develop plans with a client that reduce the likelihood of interventions
  • Effectively and assertively communicate personal boundaries to a client
  • Use verbal and non-verbal language to communicate with medical care providers and clients
  • Design and prepare documentation in advance of client meetings
  • Set goals and timeline for the steps needed to prepare for working with clients

Return to top of page

Working With Clients During Labor

This unit will assist you in developing techniques that help you to support a client during labor and birth. You’ll look at positioning, massage techniques, breathing, and relaxation methods, and cover an overview of complementary therapies. You’ll explore how you can communicate with a client on the options available to them for pain relief. You’ll also consider the challenges of being on call and how to create the optimal environment for birth. You’ll examine the difference in your role when you’re at a home birth and how you can support partners and other family members. Finally, you’ll go through the documentation that might be useful at a birth.

Certification activities in this unit

  • Identify the skills used when supporting a birth doula client and their effectiveness
Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Name five different upright positions that can be used for labor
  • Describe the different nerve fibers that relate to touch and pain
  • Describe the role of a doula at a homebirth
  • Name three things a doula can do to support a client’s partner or other family members
  • Consider the impact that different positions have on the angles within the pelvis and on labor progress
  • Evaluate the different effects of firm and light touch
  • Evaluate different styles of breathing
  • Effectively communicate the pros and cons of options available to a client (in relation to pain relief)
  • Create a visualization script that encourages relaxation
  • Plan for being on call, identifying how to manage stress during this period

Return to top of page

Adapting to Labor Circumstances

Labor is often a time of enormous challenges, both physically and emotionally. However, for some, labor is more difficult than for most. In this unit, you’ll look at some of the more common causes of a challenging labor and how you, as a birth doula, can help a laboring client. You will also learn the techniques for Rotational Positioning, a CBI-designed tool to support clients in some challenging births.

Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Describe the impact of sleep deprivation on decision-making
  • Identify a variety of fetal positions and malpositions
  • Name three techniques for supporting a client with a posterior labor
  • Identify three ways that a cesarean might impact a client after the birth
  • Identify four strategies for managing conflict
  • Recognize the impact of fetal position on the fetal head diameter
  • Explain the increased risks for posterior labor and the possible causes of these
  • Explore how Rotational Positioning might be beneficial during a posterior labor
  • Reflect on four ways that a doula can help during an epidural
  • Reflect on personal feelings about being present for an unplanned homebirth
  • Develop a plan for self-care during a long or challenging labor

Return to top of page

Working With Clients Postpartum

A birth doula typically provides 1-2 postpartum visits with a client but might be available for telephone or email consultation for the first few weeks after the birth. In this unit, you’ll look at the services that you can provide during the postpartum period.

Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Identify the common symptoms with a range of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder
  • Reflect on own role in supporting a client with a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder
  • Develop handouts for clients on postpartum issues

Return to top of page

Read About Our Other Modules