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Find out what training you need to become a doula

Doulas play a key supporting role in bringing new life into the world. Birth doulas coach women through the ups and downs of labor and birth, while postpartum doulas help moms and families adjust to having a newborn and assist with everything from breastfeeding to household tasks. But what does it take to become a doula? Here’s what you need to know about the training and certifications required of doulas-to-be. 

Organizations that offer doula training 

Anyone can call themselves a doula, but doula training and certification gives you significant credibility and a professional referral network. It also gives you the knowledge and training needed to ensure you’re well-equipped to do your job. Several organizations offer doula certification programs, and depending on the one you choose, it can cost anywhere from about $400 to $1,000 to get certified. 

According to NaturalHealers.com, in order to get certified, birth doulas typically need seven to 12 hours of childbirth education, 16 hours of birth doula training, and attendance of two to five births. Postpartum doulas need close to 30 hours of doula education and assistance with two or more postpartum women.  

DONA International

This is the largest doula certifying organization in the world, with over 12,000 certified doulas in more than 50 countries worldwide. DONA International offers separate training for birth doulas and postpartum doulas. Birth doulas get certified by attending a DONA-approved workshop, taking childbirth education and breastfeeding education, supporting clients and submitting documentation and evaluation, and a home study portion that includes taking an online business webinar, creating a resource list, writing an essay, and providing written references. The process of becoming certified as a postpartum doula is very similar. The course material focuses on caring for new moms and babies after birth. According to DONA International, the cost to get certified as either a birth doula or postpartum doula ranges from $700 to $1,100.  

Birth Arts International

This organization also offers a doula certification called Birth Arts International Certified Doula (BAICD). They offer one of three ways to get certified:

  1. Attend a weekend workshop with professional trainers.

  2. Do a fully online e-learning education program.

  3. Do a distance learning course that consists of a mix of physical books and online access.  

Birth Arts International charges $400 for e-learning and $450 for distance learning, and the cost of the local workshop option varies by location, though most range from $450 to $550. 

CAPPA

This organization also offers international certification for birth doulas, in addition to childbirth and lactation educators. Their Certified Labor Doula (CLD) is offered as a traditional in-person course and an online distance learning course. Both require you to take courses, pass a multiple choice exam and essays, attend three labors/births and obtain evaluations and create a resource list on local support for parents. The cost of the in-person doula training option starts at $670, plus the cost of books, and the online distance course starts at $745, plus the cost of books.  

There are other organizations, such as the International Doula Institute, that also offer doula certification. As you decide which organization to get certified with, compare pricing, credibility, how extensive their referral network is and if they offer trainings in your area if you want to do in-person training.  

Benefits of getting certified

While getting certified is not required in order to serve as a doula, it does have several advantages. The obvious one is that it equips you with the necessary knowledge and education to do the work safely and effectively. But getting certified also gives you additional credibility to potential clients, plus the ability to charge higher rates due to your training. Certification also puts you into a referral network with the organization you got certified with, giving you job leads.

According to DONA International, “DONA International certified doulas commanded a 25 percent higher fee than non-certified doulas and a 7 percent higher fee than doulas certified through other organizations.”

Doulas certified through their organization also received double the amount of monthly referrals.

Furthering your doula education 

Don’t forget that it’s not just one and done. You should make sure to do continuing education on your own to stay up to date with the latest information, science and techniques. You can do this through additional trainings offered by your certification institution or through local groups. Plus, some doula organizations require you to get recertified after a set period of time. For example, DOLA International requires its certified doulas to get recertified every three years.  

Keep in mind that while getting official doula training and certification is very valuable, there are other ways to obtain some of this same information or add to your certification training. You can do self-guided training through your own reading (Amazon has several books on becoming a doula) or take individual courses not associated with one of these major organizations. For example, a quick Facebook search for “doula training” will bring up training opportunities in your area. In the least, doing some of this reading and course-attending before getting certified can help you decide if this is the right career path for you before you spend the money to get certified.