Who is a birth coach and why is there such a huge market demand? Is a birth coach the same as a labor coach or a doula? Is there a market for such coaches in 2021 and beyond?
These and many other questions may have popped up in your mind!
Relax! There are so many fancy titles that some birth coaches use! It leaves everyone confused.
Today, I am going to answer all the questions you may have about what this niche of coaching entails.
The first question is the most obvious one.
Are doulas the same as birth coaches?
Many people do use the term interchangeably. We will discuss this in some detail later.
Birth coaches bring in their coaching expertise to their skills as a doula. It is an added bonus. And one that you should definitely consider adding to your skillset!
Benefits of Hiring a Birth Coach
This website lists the benefits of a doula or birth coach. Studies have shown that birth coaches can help cut back on time spent in labor. They help reduce a mom’s anxiety and lower the rate of medical interventions (including C-sections). They also improve mother-baby bonding post-birth. Their assistance may improve the odds of breastfeeding success, since many doulas are also lactation consultants.
Some other websites suggest that there is a 25%-50% shorter labor and 50% reduction in Cesarean births. While we cannot verify the studies that they have quoted, it is likely that a birth coach helps significantly. Simply put, a birth coach is an ally for the mother in the labor room where she can convey decisions that the mother has pre-requested. She is also a knowledge resource for the family.
Armed with breathing techniques, relaxation methods, laboring positions, massages for comfort and breastfeeding/bottle feeding, the birth coach is a treasure trove of information!
What Does a Birth Coach Do?
So, first let us start with the basic question: who is a birth coach and what does she do?
According to Wikipedia, a birth coach provides continuous care before, during, or after birth in the form of information, advocacy, physical support, and emotional support. She may accompany a pregnant woman during labor and birth instead of/in addition to a partner, family member or friend. The support that a birth coach provides may be classified under the following categories.
A birth coach may provide:
- Physical assistance and comfort. She may massage, provide a supporting posture or get water if the woman in labor needs it.
- Emotional support. A birth coach may provide encouragement or simply talk in a soothing tone of voice during the process of child birth
- Advocacy. She may need to step in and act as an advocate during childbirth (support the mother’s right to make decisions related to herself and the baby). Nowadays, a lot of pregnant women feel strongly about delayed umbilical cord clamping and practices related to infant bonding. A birth coach is best placed to let the medical staff know about these wishes in the delivery room.
- Information and knowledge: A birth coach may provide information about the birthing process and non-medication based forms of pain relief. She is best placed to facilitate communication between a client and the necessary health providers.
- Other assistance: A birth coach may also provide support to the client’s partner, family, and friends.
The goal of a birth coach is to help the client feel safe and comfortable, complementing the role of the healthcare professionals who provide the client’s medical care.
Birth Coach or Doula
Is there a difference between a birth coach and a doula?
Wikipedia says there is no difference between the two. A definition states: “A doula focused on birth is also known as a birth companion, birth coach or post-birth supporter.”
The concept is simple. For these entities, a birth coach provides the best of both worlds. She combines the knowledge and skills of a doula with the coaching skills that help individuals “optimally perform to achieve their goals”.
This integration of skills aids doulas, childbirth educators, L&D nurses, and others. It helps “integrate the coaching principles, strategies, and relationships of coaching into their practice.”
Is the objective for a doula the same as that of a birth coach?
The website clarifies that there is a middle ground and some objectives are shared. But there are also differences.
Both birth support coaches and doulas
- Provide resources and information
- Address personal circumstances and concerns of the client and her partner
- Finalize the birth preference list and empower clients to initiate an open discussion with their medical caregiver
Only birth support coaches
- Facilitate clarity about the client’s goals and wishes for her birth and the motivation behind them
- Establish open communication in order to distinguish fears from reality and truth from myth about childbirth
- Assist clients in revealing areas of concern or challenges that they are not currently in touch with, and resolve them
- Allow clients to adopt positive perspectives and feelings about their nearing birth by means of reframing, asking coaching questions, affirmations, anchoring and more
- Provide ongoing opportunities to prenatally practice labor support tools and comfort measures like breathing techniques, visualization, and positions
- Assess and elicit clients’ accountability for their positive and healthy process
As you can see, a lot of coaching principles and methodologies have been brought into supporting the doula’s primary role. The term “birth coach” seems like an integration of a doula and a coach.
There is one sentence in the article that helps to make the differentiation clear. “Coaching always comes before the performance!” says the writer who herself is a doula and a coach.
Principles for a Birth Coach
What are the coaching principles that can help a birth coach?
Well, there are several coaching methodologies that are particularly helpful for a doula or birth coach.
In order to show you how the coaching principles stay the same across niches, I have quoted the coaching principles from famous coach Jack Canfield.
In his book, Coaching for Breakthrough Success, Canfield describes the eight principles that can be effectively used for coaching success. I have added my own pointers that will be helpful for you as a birth coach.
Some of his coaching principles are:
The Coaching Spirit
Under this, Canfield shows how coaches derive their strength by believing in human potential for greatness. He describes how coaches also need coaches as they help clients bring out the best in themselves.
Relationship and Trust
While all coaches need to establish a relationship of trust, this is particularly important for you as a birth coach. A client will hire you for what will probably be a vulnerable emotional time of motherhood. So, establishing trust early on is a major requirement in your coaching journey with your client. Canfield uses the term “Touch a heart with care and sincerity” and you can see how that is relevant for you!
Asking Questions and Curiosity
Curiosity is a common trait among all coaches. Coaches are trained to ask questions that empower clients and create buy-in. Coaches avoid judgmental and advice-oriented questions. Instead, they use questions to encourage a client to think deeply. You may look at my previous blogs to understand how to frame powerful questions! Some of them are here and here.
Listening and Intuition
Coaches are trained to listen rather than tell. As a birth coach, this will help you understand the priorities of your client and help her to come up with powerful solutions. Practising mindfulness and being present will help you as a birth coach to focus on the client’s needs. The birthing process is different across many cultures and countries. Being impartial and non-judgemental will also help you build a relationship of trust with your client.
Feedback and Awareness
Canfield talks about how awareness and acceptance cultivates transformation. This is true of your clients as well as relevant in your personal coaching journey.
Goals and Action Plans
This is a must for every coach. Establishing goals together with the client gives her a sense of ownership and commitment. Hold the client accountable to your pre-agreed goals.
Acknowledge Efforts and Progress
Lastly, acknowledge progress. Only the client can understand how far they have progressed thanks to your support as a birth coach. Since you have not walked in your client’s shoes, keep judgement aside. Praise wholeheartedly and watch the confidence level of your client bloom!
I hope you can now see why I quoted Canfield’s book rather than talking about any book on birth coaching. The idea is to show you a different perspective! Your perspective will be your unique reality.
The truth is that coaching principles stay the same, irrespective of whether you are an executive, spiritual or success coach. Understanding the main coaching principles will definitely help you in your career as a birth coach!
However, there is one last point to remember when dealing with a pregnant client. The client may be feeling vulnerable, insecure or physically unfit. So keep your expectations realistic.
Always refer to the doctor’s advice for any fitness tips.
Birth Coach: Terms of Employment
How long is a birth coach hired for? How much are clients ready to pay for the services of one?
Hiring a coach
Most client-coach relationships, in this case, begin a few months before the baby is due. This is a good time to start as it gives you some time to get to know a client’s preferences and mingle with her family.
Offer your services to answer any questions that your client may have at any time. Take into consideration any religious beliefs that may be followed by her or her family.
Be a patient sounding board so that she can express fears and concerns, and discuss birth preferences with you.
Since there aren’t too many salaries listed for your coaching niche, I have looked for the next best thing: the salary of a doula.
This website breaks down the salaries of doulas:
Birth doulas in San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Los Angeles and New York charge $1600-$2000 per client. With an average of four births per month, the income would be about $86,400/per year. Birth doulas in big cities where the cost of living is lower than the above cities charge $900-$1400 per birth. These include cities like Cincinnati, San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Austin. Per year, this would mean an income of $43,200-$67,200. Birth doulas in smaller towns charge $600-$1200 depending on the clientele. Annually, this adds up to $28,800-$57,600.
There is also a category for postpartum doulas. In San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Los Angeles and New York they charge $35-$65 per hour. An average of 40 hours per week would generate an annual income of $72,800-$135,200. Postpartum doulas in Cincinnati, San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Austin charge about $35-$45 per hour. Per year, this would be about $72,800-$93,600. In smaller towns, they charge $25-$35 per hour, earning $48,000-$72,800 per year.
As a birth coach, you are in a unique niche as you can combine the rates of a coach and a doula.
Most doulas also choose to combine birth and postpartum doula services. This allows for continuity of care for your clients.
Is it necessary to be a doula in order to be a birth coach?
The truth is that a birth coach is still referred to as a doula in many parts of the world. So, training as a doula may actually be to your advantage when it comes to marketing your services as a birth coach.
Are you beginning your career as a coach? Congratulations, you have chosen a noble profession!
Perhaps you want to train as a coach? If you are wondering which coaching program to opt for, read my blog How to Select the Best Coaching Training Program in 2021.
The other relevant question in this regard is related to coaching women. How is the process of coaching women different from coaching men? Read my earlier blog on some pointers. Another blog How to Become a Women Empowerment Coach (2021) may also be helpful.
The good thing about being a birth coach is that you will always be in demand. Babies will continue to be born and doulas will also have steady jobs. Even in the current economic scenario, you can earn enough money to survive.
Everyone has the same concerns about winning clients in a tough market. All coaches are constantly being challenged to get noticed and advertise their services. But with hard work and innovative marketing, you will definitely be successful.
Here is a blog by a doula that I found interesting. As she says, do not sell yourself short. That is the key to her success.
As coaches, we also have areas that we need to introspect and work on. We need to face our own inhibitions, weaknesses and self-esteem and self love issues. The faster we do this, the better we get at coaching itself!
Becoming a Better Birth Coach
What is the secret towards becoming the best coach?
There is no magic pill. Hard work, the right attitude towards learning and some marketing skills will take you places. If you are worried about taking your career online, I suggest you read my blogs here and here. They will help you understand how to get started.
Meanwhile, keep reading books and keep discovering the latest research and trends.
Birth Coach Reading Habits
There are several books written on birth coaching which you may find helpful.
Look through some of the titles and see which one is a good read for you.
- Top Tips for Best Birth: The Busy Woman’s Guide to a Stress-Free Pregnancy and Birth by Rosie McCaffrey
- Dad’s Playbook to Labor & Birth: A Practical and Strategic Guide to Preparing for the Big Day by Brad Halvorsen
- The Heart of the Doula: Essentials for Practice and Life by Amy L. Gilliland
- What Does a Doula Do? Birth Coaching for an Easy, Joyful, Loving Birth by Kim Turton
- The Doula’s Guide to Empowering Your Birth: A Complete Labor and Childbirth Companion for Parents to Be by Lindsey Bliss
- Birthing from Within: An Extra-ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
- The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman Through Childbirth by Penny Simkin
- The Birth Partner – Revised 3rd Edition: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin
Besides this list you may also want to look up related coaching books on Goodreads. Some coaching books listed on various websites are:
- Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills by Tony Stoltzfus (Goodreads Author)
- Agile Coaching by Rachel Davies, Liz Sedley
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
- Unlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations by Michael Simpson
- The Coaching Mindset: 8 Ways to Think Like a Coach by Chad Hall
- The Coaching Hours (How to Date a Douchebag, #4) by Sara Ney
- Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition by Lyssa Adkins
- Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose – the Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership by John Whitmore
- Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics’ Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams by Jennifer Sey
- Mindfulness: The Most Effective Techniques: Connect With Your Inner Self To Reach Your Goals Easily and Peacefully (Positive Psychology Coaching Series Book 0) by Ian Tuhovsky
- Communication Skills Training: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Social Intelligence, Presentation, Persuasion and Public Speaking (Positive Psychology Coaching Series Book 9) by Ian Tuhovsky, Wendell Wadsworth
- Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In by Brett Bartholomew
- The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar
- Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People by Bradford D. Smart
Another list is available here.
Podcasts and Videos for Birth Coach
There are several YouTube videos and podcasts relevant for you to find out more about birth coaching.
Some of the links that came up on a Google search are: