If you have communication skills, enjoy sharing knowledge with classes and individuals and have a passion for helping parents discover the wonders of childbirth and parenting, you could be a great childbirth educator. You may find jobs in hospitals, clinics, government and nonprofit organizations across the country, or you may consider developing a training class and marketing it to organizations. You might also choose to work one-on-one with parents in a variety of roles.
The field of health education is growing at an above average rate of 13% with a range of education, training and certification programs available depending on your area of interest. As a member of the health care circle, a childbirth educator teaches families about the birth process and supports them as they transition through pregnancy to parenthood. Some of the duties you may have as a childbirth educator include the following:
- Acting as an advocate to support the natural process of birth in hospitals, birth centers and homes
- Educating and informing women through prenatal visits, labor and birth and after birth while helping them to make informed decisions based on benefits, risks and alternatives
- Encouraging parental and family participation in childbirth
- Promoting mother, baby and family-centered maternity care, including breastfeeding and parent-infant bonding
Some of the different types of childbirth educators include the following:
- Lactation consultants are health care professionals with specialized knowledge and clinical expertise in breastfeeding and human lactation. They educate women, families, health professionals and the community about breastfeeding, providing breastfeeding support and care from pregnancy through weaning.
- Labor or birth doulas are trained labor coaches who assist before birth, during labor and just after delivery. The role of a labor doula may include the following:
- Before birth – Answering questions, easing fears and helping with a birth plan
- During labor – Suggesting more comfortable positions, helping with breathing during contractions, providing a massage
- Providing continuous emotional support and nonmedical services, often in partnership with a midwife
- Antepartum doulas offer pregnancy support for high-risk mothers, especially those on bedrest in the hospital or home. They may provide the following services:
- Informational support – Websites, support groups, information and resources
- Physical support – Art of relaxation, including meditation, visual imagery, massage
- Practical support – Sibling care, meal preparation and light housekeeping
- Emotional support – Encouragement and one-on-one support during difficult times
- Postpartum doulas provide education, companionship and support during the postpartum fourth trimester. Some of the duties of a postpartum doula include the following:
- Newborn care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light household duties
- Sharing knowledge on newborn feeding and care, infant soothing and coping
- Assisting with physical and emotional recovery from birth
Education, licensing and certification
Education requirements vary depending on position, employer type and required certifications. Some positions require a high school diploma with appropriate certifications, while other positions require a college degree or a nursing license and appropriate training, certifications and experience. Make sure to research the education and licensing requirements for the type of position you are seeking before selecting a program.
You may also want to research job descriptions from employers in your location to determine the education, experience and credentials they are seeking. Be aware that education requirements, licensing and certifications often change from state to state. Visit the Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state. If you move due to a PCS, your service branch can now help reimburse licensure and certification costs up to $1,000.
To find the right program among the many training and certifying organizations, find answers for the following:
- How much time can you devote to training?
- Is training available locally or will you need to travel?
- What is the organization’s birth philosophy?
- Is there local mentorship?
- Do you have to take a certification exam? Is the program certification nationally recognized?
- Do you need to student teach?
- Are there continuing education requirements?
- What is the length of training? What is the average time to complete training and certification?
- What are the training costs?
Review information from Lamaze International, International Childbirth Education Association, American College of Nurse Midwives and other organizations that provide training and certification.
Once you’ve met the requirements to become a childbirth educator, it’s time to find a job in your field. One of the first places to look is the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search. Hundreds of partner employers have made the commitment to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers.
Consider volunteering, doing an internship or student teaching, and proactively networking to build your experience. Tell family, friends, coworkers and all others that you are hoping to be a childbirth educator and ask for contacts they might have who can help you build and expand your network and provide more information on this career path.
Professional organizations and networking
Join a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Network with other professionals in your industry to give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to get an interview at your new location.
Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.
Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach to discuss career or education choices, searching for a job or overcoming challenges. Coaches are available to review your resume, practice interviewing, discuss networking or assist you in understanding employer requirements for this field. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.