Which Doula Certification or Training Program is Best?

someone drinks coffee while taking an online doula training

If you're passionate about supporting expectant and newly-delivered parents through the incredible journey of childbirth or postpartum, becoming a certified doula is a rewarding path to consider. However, with so many doula certification and training programs available, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. You might be wondering, "Which doula certification or training program is the best fit for me?" In this article, we'll explore key factors to help you make an informed decision.

Your Doula Path: Types of Doula Certifications

Before diving into the world of doula certifications, it's essential to reflect on your doula path. Consider your goals, aspirations, and the type of doula work you envision. Doulas typically fall into several categories:

1. Birth Doula: Providing physical, emotional, and informational support to birthing individuals before, during, and after childbirth.

2. Postpartum Doula: Offering assistance and support to new parents during the postpartum period, helping with newborn care, household tasks, and emotional well-being.

3. Full-Spectrum Doula: Full spectrum doulas support people through the entire spectrum of reproduction, including fertility, pregnancy, loss, abortion, birth, and postpartum.

4. Specialized Doula: There are also more niche certification and training programs for doulas who focus on specific areas, such as bereavement, LGBTQ+ support, or cultural-specific doula services.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Doula Certification:

There are dozens if not hundreds of organizations that offer training and support for those who are considering embarking on a doula career. Rather than recommend one brand over another, we want to provide a framework that will help you evaluate doula certification and training programs.

  1. Recognition and Establishment: While it’s true that some of the older, more-established organizations can be a bit crusty when it comes to keeping up with the times in their content, training approach, and requirements, it is also important to note that certification from these established organizations CAN make things easier when it comes to applying for insurance, applying for positions at hospitals and collectives, and other more bureaucratic processes that streamline decision-making by trusting you because you come from a trusted organization.
  2. Curriculum and Content: My best tip is to review the program's curriculum to ensure it covers the topics and skills that align with your doula path. Comprehensive training often includes childbirth education, breastfeeding support, and doula ethics. Do the books look interesting to you? Do the module titles sound like something you’d want to grab a bag of popcorn and start binging? Do the assignments sound valuable–or more like busy work?
  3. Practical Experience: Practical training, such as attending births or shadowing experienced doulas, can be invaluable. Check if the program offers opportunities for hands-on experience, and try to understand how the organization helps you get into the room and gain these experiences.
  4. Flexibility: Consider your schedule and how flexible the program is. Some certifications offer remote/online courses or asynchronous work, which can be convenient for those with busy lives. But on the other hand, you may be the type who would prefer to fly to a city and get the core training done live, in a long weekend without your usual family distractions. 
  5. Cost and Affordability: Evaluate the program's cost, including registration fees, course materials, exam fees, and requirements to pay yearly to keep your certification current. Keep in mind that certification is an investment in your doula career and can pay dividends in returns. And also consider that many organizations offer sliding scales and scholarships for those who struggle to fit certification fees into their budget.
  6. Support and Mentorship: A strong support network and mentorship opportunities can be beneficial for your professional growth. Ask if the program provides ongoing support and access to experienced doulas. What’s it like to be a graduate from this program? How do alumni stay connected? Learn more about life after certification to see how the organization supports its members.
  7. Requirements for Certification: Understand the program's requirements for certification. This may include attending a certain number of births, completing coursework, and passing exams. Do they sound like valuable exercise that will help you hone your craft? Or do they sound like box-ticking busywork?
  8. Philosophy and Values: Ensure that the program's philosophy aligns with your values and approach to doula work. Every program may have a unique perspective on childbirth and doula ethics.
  9. Continuing Education: Check if the program offers opportunities for continuing education and staying updated on the latest developments in childbirth support.
  10.  Reviews and Recommendations: Seek feedback from certified doulas who have completed the program. Ask at local meetups, Facebook groups and other online communities, and ask your contacts in the field. Their experiences and insights can provide valuable guidance.

It’s a lot of work to assess all of these aspects of all of the programs out there, but it’s worth the effort on the front end to make this time investment as you explore what’s best for you as you embark on a new career! We’ve designed this editable spreadsheet for you to copy and fill out as a way to help you get started on your journey of consideration.

The "best" doula certification or training program is ultimately the one that aligns with your goals, values, and desired doula path. Take your time to research and explore your options, and don't hesitate to reach out to program coordinators or certified doulas for guidance. Your doula journey is a deeply personal and rewarding one, and selecting the right certification program is a crucial step toward realizing your dream of supporting expectant parents during this transformative time in their lives.

Ok–curious: which did you choose?!

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Carly B

Carly B

Carly is a postpartum doula and Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC) based in the West End of Richmond, Virginia.