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Those who desire to become a birth attendant must complete a certification program that provides training in their specific field of interest. Birthing attendants who serve as nurse's aids can receive this type of training from a local hospital, provided they have completed high school. Attendants who wish to act as doulas which coach mothers during labor can attend training seminars from privately operated certification organizations. Those attendants who are present in the delivery room often must attend a certain number of live births prior to receiving their certification.
A birth attendant in a hospital performs duties similar to a nursing assistant. This position may be responsible for changing patient's clothing and bedding linens. She may also assist the patient in using the bathroom, or bring patients food and water when needed. Her activities are generally directed by the head nurse on duty in the hospital in which she works. The individuals under this type of position's care are typically mothers experiencing labor, or who have recently delivered a baby.
Nursing assistants must complete a high school education, and a nursing aid training certification program. This type of coursework is often available at local community colleges and through hospital training programs. Aids who become a birth attendant by receiving certification through participating hospitals also are eligible to receive on the job training, and a guaranteed position upon completion of their coursework. Nurses aids can continue to attend classes to become Certified Nursing Assistants and eventually Registered Nurses, to participate in a higher level of patient care.
The title of birth attendant may also be applied to women who assist mothers during the labor process. This position is also referred to as a birthing doula, or a labor coach. This type of attendant is present during birth to be attuned to the specific needs of the mother. She is often skilled in massage and activating pressure points that help the mother relax while she experiences natural child birth without the aid of medication. She may bring the mother ice chips, place cold towels on her forehead, and encourage her to move her muscles and joints in such a way as to bring the baby into the downward birthing position.
A certification is required to become a birth attendant or doula that participates in the labor process. This certification may be obtained from many different organizations who specialize in training attendants and midwives for all phases of the birthing, both before and after. Many attendants choose to work as private contractors, and can select the certification program that is available in their area and works best with their schedules. Attendants who prefer to remain in the employ of a hospital or doctor's office may benefit from checking with their employer of interest first to find out whether a specific certification program is required.
The certification process generally requires the applicant to complete relevant paperwork, attend specific training seminars, and attend a set number of births. Some reading materials may also be assigned to the student training to become a birth attendant that educate her in the biological background of birthing, the medical risk complications that can affect some births, and the benefits a doula can bring to the delivery room. The trainee may attend births with or without a certified doula, but must obtain the consent of the mother prior to participating. The purpose of the birth attendant is not to provide medical assistance, but to aid the mother emotionally and physically when possible.