Monday, January 21, 2013

Hiring a Doula: Certified vs. Not Certified

This is Part Two of a series on choosing the best doula for you and your family. Are there other topics you'd like to see addressed in this area? Email me at, or visit my Contact Form.

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:
I am certified through DONA International, the largest of the above organizations. My certification process included the following:
  • 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.
Entangled in this process is a whole host of workshop fees, membership fees, material costs, etc. That being said, the monetary expense of certification alone may be prohibitive to many. Some doulas choose instead to just pay for the labor support workshop and leave it at that, or even learn skills on their own. Others certify for a period of time, but they choose to let their certifications expire when they no longer see the value in maintaining them. Some communities (Greensboro included) have volunteer doula programs with lower-cost trainings, such as the one provided by our local YWCA. Some organizations provide scholarships to minority groups who will be creating low-cost doula networks in their areas; still, I have heard these scholarships are difficult to come by.

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.

1 comment:

  1. doulas hiring needs keen plannind, it is always preferable to hire a certified doulas
    Doula classes