How Do I Become A Certified Doula?
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There are a number of ways a doula can get certified. With that said certification is not a requirement to become a doula. Certification simply insures the mother or parents receiving doula care that the doula has completed certain documented requirements that counts toward her level of expertise.
♥ Doulas are not required to have any medical training.
♥ Doulas are not required to have any certifications
♥ There are no standardized training manuals for doulas
♥ There are no minimum requirements to be a doula.
With that said, Historically Doulas were friends and family of the laboring mother lending a caring and helping hand to ensure a safe and beautiful birthing experience for the mother to be. Since we’ve moved away from this natural training of helping the new mom give birth, “doula training” was introduced. Many organizations today offer training programs for doulas. Some doula training programs are more hands on than others and some are more class based. It really boils down to how you’d like to learn the profession. However most programs will require that you be present at a number of births (which will vary depending on the program you decide to go with)
Keep in mind that you can train to become a doula without being certified. As a matter of fact you can start attending births and reading up on the role of a doula without enrolling in any programs.
If you desire to go the official doula training route. There are a number of organizations that provide doula training and certification.
Currently the top 5 doula certification organizations are DONA, ALACE, CAPPA, CBI and ICEA. Each have specific requirements that must be met for a doula to be considered certified, i.e number of birth attended, workshops completed, books read, etc. Below are the requirements for each organization. Please note that certification requirements may be revised and updated so it would be wise to check the respective organization’s website for their newest doula certification revisions.
DONA Certification Requirements
To become a DONA International certified birth doula:
1. You must attend a DONA approved Birth Doula Workshop of 16 or more hours. You must be certified within four years of attending the workshop.
2. The must read the DONA International Position Paper: The Birth Doula’s Contribution to Modern Maternity Care, 2006. You must also read at least five books from their required reading list shown below:
The following two books:
- The Doula Book, 2nd edition, 2002 Klaus, Kennell & Klaus
- Simkin, The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions, 3rd edition, 2008
At least one of the following book:
- The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth, 4th edition, 2004 Kitzinger,
- Simkin, Whalley & Keppler, Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: the Complete Guide, revised, 2001
- Douglas, The Mother of All Pregnancy Books: the Ultimate Guide to Conception, Birth and Everything in Between, 2002 (U.S. or Canadian version)
- Whalley, Simkin & Keppler, The Simple Guide to Having a Baby (simple English version), 2005
At least one of the following books:
- Harper, Gentle Birth Choices: A Guide to Making Informed Decisions about Birthing Centers, Birth Attendants, Water Birth, Home Birth, Hospital Birth, revised 2005
- Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, 2004
- Peterson, An Easier Childbirth: A Mother’s Guide for Birthing Normally, 1993
- Goer, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, 1999
And at least one of the following books:
- The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd edition by Mohrbacher, Stock & Newton
- Mohrbacher & Kendall-Tackett, Breastfeeding Made Simple, 2005 (Available in the U.S. and Canada)
- Newman & Pitman, The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, 2000 (Available in the U.S.)
- Newman & Pitman, Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding, 2000 (Available in Canada)
- Huggins & Lawrence, The Nursing Mother’s Companion, 5th edition, 2005
3. You must purchase a birth doula certification packet. Each packet expires within two (2) years of purchase. Packets must be purchased prior to attending births submitted for certification.
4. Complete one of the following:
A. Observation of a complete childbirth preparation series (not as an expectant parent). Click here to view the list of approved childbirth educational organizations. Exceptions may be made for candidates who do not have any approved certified educators within a 30 mile radius and are unable to complete one of the alternatives. Contact Certification Director@DONA.org with detailed information about the most extensive and in-depth childbirth classes that are available.
B. Attendance at an “Introduction to Childbirth for Doulas” class offered in conjunction with a DONA approved birth doula workshop.
C. Training in midwifery or childbirth education (see the list of approved childbirth education organizations)
D. Recent or current work experience in labor and delivery as a registered nurse
5. Submit at least one of the following:
Proof of completion of lactation consultant, breastfeeding peer counselor or community breastfeeding educator training.
Proof of completion of one (1) of the following approved on-line study programs.
Lactation Education Resources – affordably priced Complete Self-Learning Program. Learn more
Breastfeeding Basics – free on-line independent study program. Click here for directions for accessing and registering for the program. You can find their web site here.
Proof of participation in a minimum three (3) hour breastfeeding workshop covering the basics of breastfeeding offered to birth and postpartum related professionals, such as those offered at conferences or in conjunction with DONA approved workshops. The workshop must be taught by an educator with recognized breastfeeding credentials (IBCLC, CLE or CLC).
6. Provide doula service to a minimum of three (3) clients. All births submitted for certification must take place after attending the DONA approved birth doula workshop and after purchasing the birth doula certification packet. The births documented must meet the criteria outlined in your certification packet, including, but not limited to:
Labor support must begin before or at the onset of the active phase of labor. For certification purposes, active labor will be considered four (4) centimeters.
The number of labor support hours for all three (3) submitted births must total a minimum of fifteen (15) hours.
Your presence as the birth doula must be continuous.
You must remain for the birth of the baby to provide immediate postpartum support.
Every vaginal exam must be documented on the Birth Record Sheet’s Labor Progression Chart.
Cesarean births may account for only one (1) of the three (3) required birth experiences.
7. For each of the three (3) births submitted for certification, include a:
A. Client Confidentiality Release Form (pdf)
B. DONA International Birth Record Sheet (pdf)
C. Typewritten (500-700 word) account of each birth (pdf)
D. Good evaluation from your client, the laboring mother (pdf)
E. Good evaluation from the primary care provider; plus each physician evaluation must be accompanied by a nurse evaluation (pdf)
8. Develop a list of at least forty-five (45) local resources in at least thirty (30) different categories. Refer to your certification packet for suggestions.
9. Read and sign the DONA International Code of Ethics and the DONA International Standards of Practice.
10. Provide current contact information (name, phone, e-mail and relationship) for one (1) client and one (1) birth professional who have agreed to serve as a reference for you. The references will be checked by the Certification Committee.
11. Submit a typewritten essay (500-1,000 words) on the value and purpose of labor support. Refer to your certification packet for details.
12. Pay the certification processing fee on-line in the DONA Boutique or by check or money order in US funds.
13. Verify that you are a current member of DONA International. Join now.
15. Once certified, it is the DONA certified doula’s responsibility to maintain continuous membership with DONA International. Please see the Lapsed Membership Policy for more information.
View most updated DONA doula certification here →
ALACE/ toLabor Certification Requirements:
UPDATE: The Doula Training is now offered by toLabor The Organization of Labor Assistants for Birth Options & Resources
Requirements for Certification
Attendance at our weekend Birth Doula Training workshop (must be no longer than 5 years prior to sending in completed requirements)
Completion of the required reading list (see below)
Observe/Audit a series of Childbirth Preparation Classes
Written summaries of 6 births you have attended – of which 3 can be births you have attended prior to attending the workshop.
Written evaluations from 3 people you’ve assisted or worked with (i.e., women you’ve helped in labor, midwives, doctors, nurses — any combination is fine)
Successful completion of the written exam
Current membership and certification fee
We recommend that our participants follow through with the certification process and encourage completion within a year of the training. When all requirements are successfully fulfilled you will receive your Certification documentation and your listing on the website will be upgraded to “Certified Professional Doula”. Recertification is required each year. If more than 5 years elapses between original certification and recertification, further requirements will need to be completed.
Required Reading List
for Birth Doula Certification:
“toLabor Birth Doula Training Manual” — Resources/Articles section (received at workshop)
“Nursing Mother’s Companion” (Huggins) or “Bestfeeding” (Renfrew, Fisher, Arms)
“Birth As An American Rite of Passage” – Robbie Davis-Floyd
“The Birth Partner” – Penny Simkin
“The Complete Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth” – Shelia Kitzinger
“Pushed” – Jennifer Block
“Heart and Hands” – Elizabeth Davis
“The VBAC Companion” – Diana Korte or “Birth After Cesarean” – Bruce Flamm
“What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know About Cesarean Section”-www.chilbirthconnections.org
“Mothering the New Mother” – Placksin
*”Obstetric Myths vs. Research Realities” – Henci Goer or “A Guide to Effective Care inPregnancy and Childbirth”-Enkin, Keirse & Chalmers
*”Understanding Diagnostic Tests in the Childbearing Year” -Frye
*These last books are required for reference purposes. Although you are not expected to read each book from cover to cover, we do require that you be familiar with their content and strongly encourage you to own or ensure access to a copy once you begin your practice.;
View the most updated ALACE/ toLabor Certification here →
For other doula certification organizations:
There is a great variety of organizations that offer doula training courses. Even though it can be confusing which one to go with, the best way to decide is to follow these principles:
- The organization should be well-respected with a clear scope of practice and a strict code of ethics.
- In person classes are highly recommended.
- Clear grievance procedure if you have a complaint about a doula behavior regarding the code of ethics or the scope of practice of the organization.
Here is the list of some doula training organizations. Choose the one that is right for you.