Birth Doula Training Workshops


Doula (doo’-luh) is a Greek word referring to an experienced woman who helps other women. Today the word is used to refer to a trained person (usually a woman) who provides physical, emotional and informational support to women and families during and after childbirth. The Simkin Center trains two types of doulas: birth doulas and postpartum doulas.

What is a Birth Doula?

A birth doula assists the pregnant woman and her family in preparing and carrying out their birth plans. She stays with the laboring mother throughout the entire birth process, providing emotional and physical support and an objective viewpoint. She helps her clients get the information they need to make informed decisions.

The birth doula recognizes childbirth as a transformative life experience. Her primary objective is to nurture and protect a woman’s memory of her birth experience.

Training at the Simkin Center

The Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations at Bastyr University (originally a program of the Seattle Midwifery School) provides one of the highest quality birth doula courses available anywhere. Internationally renowned author, childbirth educator and Simkin Center senior instructor, Penny Simkin, created and has taught our birth doula skills workshop since 1988. Since then, over 8,000 people have come to Simkin Center to discover the doula in themselves under the nurturing guidance of our world-class instructors.

The early graduates of this groundbreaking workshop founded PALS Doulas, a professional organization providing peer support, continuing education, doula certification and referrals. Using the successful model of PALS Doulas, advocates and doulas around the North America joined together to found DONA International. Simkin Center was the first organization to be granted DONA institutional approval for our curriculum and faculty.

Doula Certification

The Simkin Center's birth doula workshop is approved as one step toward PALS Doulas and DONA International certification. Students who are interested in becoming a certified doula must also fulfill application and experiential requirements after completing the birth doula training. For more information on doula certification, contact PALS at (206) 329-7257 or DONA International at (888) 788-3662).


Workshop Description

The Birth Doula Skills Workshop is a four-day course. The curriculum includes:

  • Anatomy and physiology of pregnancy, fetal development, labor, postpartum, and breastfeeding
  • Components of prenatal care and the midwifery model of care
  • Emotions of pregnancy
  • Pain management techniques
  • Medical procedures used in labor
  • Labor variations and complications, including Cesarean birth
  • Communication and listening skills
  • The emotional and psychological aspects of giving birth and its significance in women’s lives
  • The doula’s role, professional ethics, standards of practice, and certification
  • Emotional support and physical comfort measures
  • Support for difficult labors, Cesarean birth, and vaginal birth after Cesarean
  • Newborn care and breastfeeding support
  • Values clarification and cultural sensitivity
  • Includes Introduction to Childbearing (DONA International certification requirement)

Required Reading

Recommended Reading

  • The Doula Business Guide: Tools to Create a Thriving Business (latest edition) by Patty Brennan
  • The Labor Progress Handbook: Early Interventions to Prevent and Treat Dystocia (latest edition) by Penny Simkin and Ruth Ancheta
  • Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-Emergence of Woman-Supported Birth in America (latest edition) by Christine Morton PhD
  • Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy and Childbirth Edited by Julia Chinyere Oparah and Alicia Bonaparte


Two DONA International-approved doula trainers (see Simkin Center Faculty) lead each training workshop. Guest lecturers are invited to speak on their areas of expertise. Pregnant women join each class to participate in a discussion of the emotional aspects of pregnancy. The course provides ample time for hands-on practice of comfort measures.

This course is very popular; register early to ensure your space.

Note: Completion of Simkin Center's Birth Doula Skills Workshop, or another DONA International-approved labor support course, is a prerequisite for Bastyr University's midwifery degree programs.

Workshop Calendar

Thursday, 2019
Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations

Learn responsive birth support in 4 days. Team-taught by world class faculty since 1988.
Thursday-Sunday, December 5-8, 2019

Saturday, 2020
Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations

Learn responsive birth support in 4 days. Team-taught by world class faculty since 1988.
Saturdays & Sundays, January 11-12 & 18-19, 2020
Please contact us directly for more information on our Course Assistant positions.

Friday, 2020
Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations

Learn responsive birth support in 4 days. Team-taught by world class faculty since 1988.
Fridays & Saturdays: January 31-February 1 & February 7-8, 2020
Please contact us directly for more information on our Course Assistant positions.

Sunday, 2020
Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations

Gain postnatal competence, tools & capacity in 4 days, team-taught by qualified faculty since 1994.
Sundays & Mondays: February 2-3 & 9-10, 2020
Please contact us directly for more information on our Course Assistant positions.

Saturday, 2020
Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations

Learn responsive birth support in 4 days. Team-taught by world class faculty since 1988.
Saturdays & Sundays: March 14-15 & 21-22, 2020
Please contact us directly for more information on our Course Assistant positions.

What Our Students Say

"Outstanding! I felt blessed to be guided in the manner that I was, and feel prepared to assist family and friends in their future birthing experiences."

"I liked how all you doulas seem to glow with the love of what you do! This was a great training. Thank you for your energy, humor, honesty and experience. It was a very safe and educational environment."

"Patience is [the instructors’] virtue – [they are] natural, frank, careful, honest, informal; yet very professional."

"I came [to the workshop as a step] toward becoming a labor and delivery nurse, and came out with a whole new outlook on career path. The compassion for laboring women and desire to promote a safe, natural birth is to be admired. The workshop philosophy has touched me deeply and is one I will carry and advocate for in my future career as a professional caregiver as well as a future mother."

"I appreciate the integrity of the doula program … It’s not about (the doula), it’s about the client. What does my client want? I see such an unselfish approach – I want to learn how to do that myself. The standard is so high and professional."

"… a wonderful experience. The wisdom shared by the women at the training all came together to form educated, informed, strong, positive doulas. I am confident I will be able to enhance the birth experience for women. I am enlightened to the fact different women make different choices that work for them. I learned to respect that and be non- judgmental. I highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in childbirth."

"… the workshop prepared me to practice. This course felt like a PhD in doula training. I feel so empowered."

"I came into this class with an ego (some self-righteous pride about being a doula). Two days later I am leaving deeply touched, humbled and changed. You are inspiring. Bless you!"

"Teachers are passionate about what they do and it was very inspiring. I can’t wait to get started!"

"The combination of [instructors] was awesome as each lent her own perspective and bag of tricks to the instruction. I got a new understanding of how normal birthing is. I will be able to pass these concepts on to the women I work with."

"[The] teaching style with visual props to keep [the] audience's attention made class interactive and fun … an easy and open learning environment. A nine-hour day can feel long, but I never felt anxious for the clock to move faster. I was intrigued by the abundance of material presented. It is obvious [the instructor’s] heart is open and giving – a doula's calling. Students are lucky to have you as [and instructor] and families to have you as a doula and childbirth educator."

"[Instructors] brought varying perspectives and I really appreciated that. The one thing I will take with me is that being a doula is ultimately about the woman ... her family ... her baby. Sharing in her vision ... her ideal birth scenario ... Doulas are there to support her and provide the best information (if wanted) to help make the best decision for herself in her vision of birth. This birth vision [varies] from woman to woman. [Doulas] are the constant, the listening rock."

"The [workshop] gave me the foundation to support and empower women as they go through the both joyful and often difficult experience of becoming mothers. We worked on listening … and discussed what it means to be present, and to recognize our own experiences and biases so we can put them [aside]. We focused on how thoughtful questioning helps lead mothers to discover their own concerns and priorities."

"As an Anglo doula serving recent immigrants from Latin America, I found there is often very little I share with my clients in terms of understanding of birth or cultural background. However, through reflective listening we build connections [based on] respect. The [Simkin Center workshop] focuses on honoring the experiences of mothers. Honoring each other’s lived realities, no matter how different they are from our own, is an invaluable skill."

"I hope that more women from all walks of life complete the [workshop] … Supporting women to become mothers is [working] for society as a whole. Listening to mothers is a way I make change. It is a step that has enriched my life, and as I put… the learning into practice, I have guidance and support from the classmates, friends and mentors I met during those four days."

"I came to this course to fulfill a requirement and to gain knowledge of this field. I [leave] informed, empowered, engaged in my choice to provide service and with a connection to this process which helped me to heal my own issues surrounding my birth. I am sure you hear this countless times, but I will say it anyway: Simkin Center is an asset! [The instructors] are role models, angels, and revolutionaries!"

"Thank you seems inadequate, yet I am thankful to have been the recipient of the enthusiasm, experience, wisdom and heart that you all have put into this workshop. To see the doula spirit in action like this is an amazing way to begin our journey."

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