Since I joined Cafe Mom, I have also joined a few groups.  A friend created a group for DONA doulas – doulas who were certified through DONA, with questions about DONA, or just moms with questions for doulas.  From there, she gave me ownership of the group due to her mounting workload.  In order to better network, I joined a few other doula and childbirth educator-friendly groups. 

          What started to make me mad was the number of people calling themselves doulas.  When people ask me about my experience, I am honest.  I tell them that I have been present at a few births before I went through my training, but have only done 4 births since I went through my training.  I don’t say that I have been working as a doula for years, because it’s not true.  Did I support other friends in labor?  Sure.  But I was there as a friend, not a professional.  To me, there is a huge difference.  There are several reasons it bothers me that these women are calling themselves doulas.


          First, there are many practices in our area that are not doula-friendly.  I interviewed a woman who told me her OB did not allow doulas in the delivery room because he had several patients whose doulas were not professionals.  At one point, he came in to examine his patient and the doula was pouring mineral oil into the patient’s vagina!  This is nowhere in our scope of practice!  Uncertified doulas can be wonderful to have, no doubt.  However, when you have people using the same title I earned, who has a higher authority to answer to, a strict code of ethics, and a very well-defined scope of practice, it makes things very difficult.  Why should that doctor be comfortable with me being there?  To him, I am just another "doula".  But now, my client may or may not be able to utilize the support of a doula during her labor.  I may have to work extra hard to create a positive communication path with the staff because of their previous experiences.  Is that fair to any of us?

          I think it also hurts certified doulas from a business stand-point.  When you can get an uncertified doula for a little bit cheaper, why not use her?  Never mind that we had to pay for our materials, training, and whatever other fees we may have incurred while performing free services at certification births.  Why should we be compensated for our time and efforts?  When I heard that an uncertified, untrained doula was making $800.00 per birth, I wanted to scream!  While her area demands a higher rate because of their standard of living, I was sitting here thinking to myself, "I am certified and feel guilty asking for $350.00 per birth!" 

          I would hate to think that I was being a snob.  Seriously.  Snobs do not make good doulas.  You have to be willing and able to support a mother’s choices when they do not coincide with your own beliefs and comfort zones.  You have to be able to drop every thing and walk out the door, ready for hours, or even a day or more of hard work.  You can’t discriminate based on maternal age, marital status, sexual preference, or any other factor.  You have to support your client, whole-heartedly.  So am I a bad doula for feeling a bit of anger toward others who give themselves the same title that I feel I worked so hard for?  How would you feel if you worked for a degree, only to have someone waltz in the door after you and make almost the same amount of money?  How would you feel if that same person started making mistakes that you had to work twice as hard to correct in order to keep the level of respect your profession deserves? 

          While I will not say that all uncertified doulas are bad, I don’t think you should be flouting that title without an appropriate "resume" to back it up.  Some doulas choose to be trained, but never certified for personal reasons.  Fine.  DONA, for one, keeps a list of uncertified members.  However, those women can give proof of their training, and have still promised to adhere to the code of ethics and standards of practice.  They still have to answer to someone and can still be punished (loss of membership and affiliation, for one) if something goes wrong.  The girl down the street who went to the hospital with her friend and told the doctor that her friend wasn’t having a C-section no matter how many times he suggested it is not a doula.  The woman who poured mineral oil into a patient’s vagina and proceeded to massage her perineum is not a doula.  I shouldn’t be compared to those women, and I shouldn’t have to work twice as hard to earn the respect of a physician because of someone like that who came before me.

          I guess I am a snob.  I don’t think it’s fair that there isn’t more regulation (?) on becoming a doula.  You couldn’t walk into a courtroom and proclaim yourself to be a lawyer, but anyone can walk into a delivery room and claim to be a doula.