Birth professionals, such as birth doulas, have been rising in popularity for the last decade or so. When I began in 2007 only DONA, Doulas Of North America , were the national certifying body and now Cornerstone is popular along with many other certifiying bodies. Currently, doulas are not regulated by any overseeing body so certification is not required to work as a doula in the private sector. So, does it matter if your doula has a certification? If they are certified what does that mean? What should you, the consumer, want to keep in mind when asking about a doula's credentials?
When I decided to become a doula I had no idea what steps I would need to take to become a doula. I just knew that the work seemed interesting and that I may want to participate. I did a Google search for doula, Oakland and African American and found an experienced doula who was teaching a class. I called and the next month I was in class and off to the races. From there I paid my fee for the training, did 6 weeks of in-class work, wrote several papers, did a presentation on a birth related topic, read a ton of books with books reports, fulfilled my supervised births, got infant CPR certified and after apprenticing for 3 years was certified as a Birth and Postpartum Doula and Childbirth educator.
My experience is quite rare and I am deeply thankful to my teacher and the birth professionals who taught me then and continue to teach me now. Usually certification for a birth doula means they attended a 4 day training, paid a fee for the training, a presentation on a birth related topic, 5 supervised births that are documented, book reports and some ask for other pieces like CPR certification, volunterring and more. After all of the requirements have been met the doula is then certified by the person or organization. It is common for certifing bodies to ask that the doula keep her certification active through continuing education and a fee.
Doula training typically consist of learning about pregnancy, nutrition, stages of labor, hopital interventions, home birth settings, marketing, comfort measures, holistic medicines available and more. By the time your doula has completed their training they are full of information pertaining to conception, birth and postpartum. Your doula should be able to answer any question you have and if they don't know they will be connected to resources that will answer your question or concern. So does it matter if your doula is certified? Honestly, that is a personal choice for you and your family. My suggestion is you ask how your doula was trained, what was required of her to be certified, if they are not certified why they made that decision and find out their philosophy on birth. Most doulas are certified and some choose not to certify because they have tons of experience, would rather apprentice or don't want to pay the fee. What is most important for you, the consumer, to know is what is that doulas skill level. You want to know your doula is competent and that you feel comfortable with them. This person is there to support you in a very difficult and profound moment in your life and what is most paramount is your connection with who you choose.
Certification for doulas really means that this person has met the requirements of the certifying body they chose. What I tell new parents and my clients is that it is best to ask what was the process of being certified or contact their referrals. If you feel like you trust, like and are connected to your doula go for it. A less experienced doula will likely have lower fees and that is something to consider as well when choosing your doula. Choosing a doula is such a personal decision but you will know when you have found the doula for you. If you need help always feel free to ask around to see what other families did to find their doula. Interview 3 doulas before you decide so you know you shopped around, go to a meet the doula event so you can meet other new families and doulas at the same time.
Know that you will find the right doula for you and your family no matter what you decide :)