A common question I get at interviews is the question of certification. What is the difference between a certified doula and an uncertified doula?
The answers to this question are as varied as doulas themselves. First off, there's a difference in certifying organizations. While each organization has similar requirements and scopes, they may have slightly different focuses. The larger certifying organizations include:
- DONA International
- Childbirth and Postpartum Professionals Association (CAPPA)
- toLABOR (formerly ALACE)
- Birth Arts International (BAI)
- Attend either a series on childbirth education or a day-long seminar on the process of normal labor and birth.
- Attend a weekend-long training (minimum 16 hours) on labor support.
- A self-study of a minimum of five books.
- Attend a breastfeeding class (minimum 3 hours)
- Attend a minimum of three births as the primary doula, totaling at least 15 hours of provided labor support, receiving evaluations from the parent, nurse, and midwife/obstetrician.
- Create a comprehensive resource list for expectant/new parents.
This is the key difference between "uncertified doulas" and "doulas working towards certification." While uncertified doulas may have all the training and experience of one who has certified (and therefore similar fees), doulas working towards certification are less experienced but generally offer their services at a much lower rate.
In other words, a doula who chooses to forgo the certification process is as capable of being a strong supportive presence at your birth as one who is certified. Certification does provide a certain "authenticity," there is a clear scope of practice as dictated by the certifying organization, and maintaining certification requires us to stay abreast of new research and techniques. If this is important to you, you might want to choose a certified doula. If this is not as important to you, you trust your doula to be honest about her training and experience, and you find an uncertified doula that really clicks with your family, then hiring an uncertified doula may be the right option for you.
I have chosen to maintain my certification with DONA because I personally value the credential. But others may not (or they may not have the means to get it). No matter what the reason, there is no doubt in my mind that you could receive wonderful labor support from an intentionally uncertified doula just the same as one with letters after her name.