The Menopause Doula: Charting a Path to Health and Well-Being with Dana Lawson

What comes to mind when you hear “menopause doula”? It’s an intriguing concept for sure, and one that women navigating menopause transition increasingly want to learn more about. 

Because only 20% of Ob-Gyn residents in the US have received formal menopause training while in medical school, it stands to reason that many women may need to seek alternative forms of help — such as a menopause coach or a menopause doula — to help manage their menopause transition. That’s where certified health coach and menopause doula-in-training Dana Lawson comes in.

Coaching women through a healthier menopause transition

Dana Lawson has been coaching women through midlife health transitions since 2020. She became a certified health coach at 52 to help other women manage what can be a confusing and isolating time when it comes to changes in their physical and cognitive health (this was undoubtedly Dana’s experience).

After more than 15 years in corporate America, Dana walked away from a lucrative, if dissatisfying, career to lean into what had always been an interest and inner longing, health and nutrition. Drawing on the interests and experience she’d garnered as a childbirth educator before joining the corporate track, in 2018, she went back to school for her health coach certification.  

“I was in a corporate job for 14 — 15 years at the time. I just woke up one day, and I was like, ‘Nope, don’t want to do this anymore,'” she recounts. “So I did a Google search and looked for careers for women over 50. I kept seeing a health coach and became intrigued. After researching a bit more, I thought, ‘Why not? I have a background in health’.” 

To fund her education, Dana stayed in her corporate role while pursuing her health coaching certification. But in December 2020, Dana quit her corporate job to fully dedicate her time and attention to learning and growing her health coaching business, which increasingly focused on working with women managing menopause transition.

“I wanted to help women, especially Black women, see that you don’t have to have your mama’s menopause. And that, yes, you can get rid of the discomforts of menopause. But it will require focusing on your health through lifestyle modifications and the appropriate medical treatment.” 

She began working with clients one-on-one after completing her health coach certification in 2019. Although she enjoyed her work and felt like she was making a difference, she wasn’t helping as many women as she wanted to serve. 

“I felt like, ‘this is great, but how can I reach more women? How can I help more women along this journey?’ And so, I invested in a business coach and learned how to run groups.”

She still has individual coaching clients; however, most of her work has focused on group coaching for the past year or more. She says it can be tough to balance the two coaching models because the approaches to organization and planning for sessions are different. One-on-one coaching plans are typically 90 days and much more tailored, while group coaching takes place over several weeks.

When asked what made her decide to pursue her menopause doula certification, she responds with a sheepish grin, “Now, that’s an interesting story.”

The student becomes the master

Dana says she was introduced to the idea by her own health coach and  menopause mentor, Karen Martel. 

“I thought it was a wonderful idea because, as a health coach, I was certified as a generalist rather than specifically trained for women’s health. So, I thought, well, if somebody sees a health coach, they might not necessarily know that the area of health I’m really focused on is menopause. Ultimately, I knew it would be a great way to marry health coaching and women’s health.”

While that part is not particularly interesting, what is interesting is how Dana came to meet and work with the Canadian-based certified hormone specialist and transformational nutrition coach who would later become her mentor. 

Reflecting on her experience with menopause transition, Dana believes she began experiencing symptoms around 42 years old. She says that at the time, she associated the changes with insufficient sleep and a diet lacking the proper nutrients. She was also struggling with managing her weight gain. Yet, she never associated these changes with perimenopause and says she had never even heard of the word until much later in her journey. 

“The whole time I was going through this, I didn’t know it was perimenopause. It was only after my period stopped that I understood what I’d been experiencing through a health coach I began working with.”

Dana says that her symptoms persisted after she stopped menstruating, leading her to seek out her own health coach certified in hormonal health to get her back on track. 

“I was really suffering. The hot flashes and night sweats were the absolute worst! The night sweats kept me from sleeping at night, so I was tired all day long.” 

Dana began working with Karen in April 2020 after hearing her speak about her work on a podcast and visiting her website several weeks earlier. Dana says that when she reached out, she didn’t reveal she was a certified health coach for fear that Karen would distrust her motives and refuse to work with her. 

“I reached out to her because everything she was talking about, I was experiencing. I needed help to get back on track.” 

She’d been struggling for almost a decade with various health challenges, many of which, in retrospect, were likely a result of perimenopause. However, by the time she realized that with the help of Karen, she was a few months shy of reaching menopause.  

“By the time we began working together, it was April of 2020. My last period was in July of 2019.” 

Dana says they began by focusing on her eating to ensure she was feeding her body the protein and nutrients it needed. Once that was under control and Dana started to see results with her weight management, her coach introduced bioidentical hormones as part of her treatment. 

After suffering from hot flashes and night sweats for nearly a decade, she says that hormone therapy has been the only thing that’s offered her consistent relief from her disruptive vasomotor symptoms. 

“It was about three months when I started feeling better. The scale was starting to move…I was getting my energy back, and my sleep was great.” 

She was feeling better than she had in years, but at the same time she was struggling to understand why more people weren’t talking about menopause and why women were suffering when treatment options were available. She knew she wanted to bring this focus into her coaching practice. That’s when she came clean with Karen about being a health coach and asked her to be a formal mentor.

“I was just like, look, ‘I have a confession to make. I’m a certified health coach, so if you want to put me out of the program, I understand, but I really don’t want to go’.” 

She went on to share with Karen that she had been so affected by their work together that she wanted to help other women, especially Black women, get the relief they need. While Karenwished to attract more diverse groups of women, Dana pointed out that she had been the only Black woman in the group of over 100 people.

“She said, ‘I really want other women to come to me, but they just don’t.’ Can I tell you why? And she said, ‘Sure.’ I said because you don’t look like me. This is nothing against you personally, but our culture has been dismissed. There are significant disparities between how Black women are treated and how others are treated when seeking help for the exact same thing, and we have mistrust from years of oppression. So we don’t naturally trust someone that doesn’t look like us.

After a bit more discussion and some convincing, Karen agreed to mentor Dana. 

“She mentored me for about two and a half years and taught me all the protocols. She explained to me about how our hormones work. She told me what books I needed to read. And she would have me write papers. I mean, I did it all.”

Dana says she also taught her how to run her coaching practice as a business.

“I’m grateful to her because she didn’t have to invest that time with me – it was invaluable.”

So, what does a doula do?

Like birth or death doulas, the role of a menopause doula is to help their clients navigate a significant health and life transition. Menopause doulas help their clients through menopause transition and provide actionable guidance, tips, and resources.

Similar to how a birth doula follows the mother from the early stages of pregnancy through birth and helps her through each stage of that process, a menopause doula provides that type of support from the early stages of perimenopause, guiding clients through ways that they can support and advocate for themselves.

Doulas serve as a partner to their client and complement their overall care team, including licensed physicians and other health and wellness experts.

In addition to strengthening her credentials, Dana believes that going through the menopause doula program is deepening her understanding of menopause and arming her with different strategies to guide women through a very individualized experience.

“Being a doula is definitely different from being a health coach. As health coaches, there are guidelines that we must follow — we can’t prescribe or suggest medication or anything like that. Though there are ways you can phrase things to help a person or encourage them to explore other options.” 

She says that as a doula, you must maintain a neutral and objective position while presenting information. 

“You have to be in this neutral space and just let them absorb information and consider the pros and cons of what you’re presenting. You can discuss with them what they’re considering, for example, ‘Do you have support for this? What is the role of your family? How do you feel? etc.’ and then they come to their own conclusions.” 

Undoubtedly, the critical distinction between a coach and a doula is that once the client has decided the path that they want to take with menopause, the doula’s role is to support them unconditionally and help them to navigate any obstacles that might arise along the way. Regularly assessing the client’s well-being and providing useful resources throughout their menopause transition are key doula responsibilities.

Dana isn’t a practicing menopause doula yet; however, she anticipates completing her doula training by the end of this year. She’s still thinking through how she’ll incorporate doula services into her current model of individual and group health coaching (though she says a full doula experience would have to be one-on-one). 

I’ll use the additional knowledge and different angles that I’m learning in the doula program in my current work. It’s adding a distinctive facet to my skill set.”

When asked what she hopes to accomplish through this work, her passion is effusive,

“My chief and most important concern is that women have excellent health outcomes. And that does not come with just letting nature take its course. Nature taking its course will lead you to an early grave.”

Dana knows that many women want to get help but need help knowing where to begin, or they’re unable to decide because they’re overwhelmed. 

“I get it… You don’t know what to do. You don’t know where to start,” she says. “I want to help get you unstuck. I want you to be open to understanding that this is not just about weight loss and hot flashes. It’s deeper than that.” She continues, “It’s about learning a different way to take care of yourself in this stage of life because you just can’t do things that you did before. It just doesn’t work.”

Dana is pursuing her menopause doula certification through Doula Canada

To work with Dana and learn more about her work, visit You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram @alignandshinenow, where you can DM her for details on coaching sessions. 


May 2023

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