Doulas are the peacemakers and rebel-rousers of new life. 

Would you like to learn more about becoming a doula? Whether you are thinking of starting your own business, joining an agency like IDA, or volunteering your services, let us help you navigate your next steps. We get between two and five emails a week asking how to become a doula; it’d be almost impossible to meet with you all individually, even though we’d prefer that! Instead, let the following answers to common questions be your initial guide. After that, you may be fine defining your own journey or if you’re not, you have a few options: Join a monthly CIDA meeting (link here) to hear from other doulas in the community, reach out to a few doulas and ask if they’d be interested in joining you for coffee, or hire Andrea as a consultant – your personal concierge doula guide!

Common Questions:

How do I start as a doula?

If you want to be a certified birth or postpartum doula, your certification requirements depend on which certifying body you choose. There are many, coming from many different perspectives and with different operative theories. You’ll need to find the one that resonates with you. The agency recognizes DONA, CAPPA, and ICEA as the certifying bodies of choice. All three have trainings in the Central Iowa area at least once a year.

How long does it take to become a doula?

Most certification tracks are self-paced, sometimes with a limit on how much time you have to turn in your packet. For instance, DONA’s packet is good for two years from the time you purchase it, with the option of purchasing an extension. Average time for a doula-in-training to start and complete the process ranges from three months to two years.

How do I increase my knowledge base?

As you decide if you want to become a doula or not, it would be beneficial to start learning all you can about the history of birth and the current birth culture, both in the US and abroad. Great resources include, and books including American Way of Birth and any by Ina May Gaskin or Penny Simkin.

How do I find a back-up?

Having a back-up is a seriously important step in serving your clients. Life happens and our clients deserve the constant support that they hired a doula for. You can build relationships with other doulas in the area; find those that have the same philosophies of practice as you. Find those you mesh well with. Usually, a client would appreciate someone similar to who she hired initially. If you are an IDA doula, we have a built-in back up system- each tier of doulas backs each other, with Andrea as a tertiary measure if an emergency happens.

How much should I charge?

That’s totally up to you. Good business-starting measures include figuring out your costs (primary and secondary) and how much you want to make per hour., and then charging accordingly. Now, working with birth is completely unpredictable which is why most doulas do not charge by the hour. Most charge a flat rate which covers their costs and hopefully works out to be an appropriate per-hour rate. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Also research the market for your area. Search on to analyze the lower and higher fees of a doula in your area. Average for Central Iowa as of mid-2017 ranges from $400 to $950. For postpartum doula-ing, the CODB (Cost of Doing Business = expenses) + your per hour take-home should give you a good idea of a fee for your services.

Can I make a living as a doula?

Depends who you ask. Depends on how much you need to make to support your family. Some doulas don’t charge anything (or charge very little) because they serve their communities through volunteerism. Some doulas feel they need to be at the top of the avg fee for their area for a multitude of reasons. So, what we can say is this: Take how many clients you could safely serve a month (discussed next) multiplied by your take-home pay (Paid fee minus CODB). Is this enough to support your family. Many doulas agree that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to make an average middle-class salary as a doula alone. That’s why many doulas choose to add other services to their packages.

How many clients do you take a month? 

Again, this ranges for each doula. For a full time doula, it’s common to see those doulas taking 4-5 clients a month. Some only do one every few months. Start off on the lower end, create your self-care measures (reduce burnout!), identify issues and conflicts, and arrange as necessary.

What if I don’t want to run a business?

Let Iowa Doula Agency run it for you! As a doula with the agency, you won’t have to worry about paying someone to design your logo and website, printing your business cards and other print marketing materials, finding a shirt printer, or hiring a lawyer to review your contracts. The agency provides these services to you!

How do I find clients?

As a doula within the agency, hopefully you’d acquire some through our Meet the Doulas! events. If you’re a private doula, the easiest way is to create a profile on and social media. Your workshop training will also give you good ideas. Overall, we can mostly agree word-of-mouth is the most effective and cheapest ways of marketing.

What other factors should I take into consideration as I think about this?

Do you have young kids? Do you have someone who could watch them from 3am on a Tuesday to 9p on a Friday? Do you have pets that need to be let out? Are you willing to be by your phone, 24/7, with the ringer always on? These are basic questions that any doula needs to ask herself. Birth happens at any time, day or night, before and after the due date. Many doulas do agree that it’s hard to be a doula while having a typical, outside-of-the-house career, but there are a few who have done it very successfully. An understanding boss and lots of vacation time is key!

What’s the hardest part about this job?

The answer to this depends who you ask. For many, the unknown factor is a lot to process. It’s hard being on-call, 24/7. Having a partner who shares call with you can be a gamechanger. Also, some would find hospital / provider politics a challenge. The more you study about the current culture of birth, the more you’ll learn about this.

What’s the best part of this job?

Supporting our clients through the most intimate journey of a lifetime is exhilarating. Seeing a baby take its first breath is captivating. Building relationships and connection with our clients through these events is a pleasure.