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How to Become a DONA International Certified Birth Doula

There are three main components to becoming a DONA International Certified Birth Doula: Education, Experience, and DONA-specific requirements.  Each of these assures that doulas have acquired the knowledge and skills to be  competent, professional, and successful in their practice. As birth doulas become more integrated into maternity care, the retention of doulas who have gained experience and collaborate well with other members of the care team are highly valued. DONA certified doulas are recognized as among the best. Here is an overview of the steps toward certification and some helpful tips for you.  More details, FAQ’s and financial investment can be found in the Birth Doula Certification Guide on the DONA website.

DONA Website

It is recommended that you start your journey by taking your workshops and waiting to apply for your certification packet after the training but before you make arrangements to attend your first birth. (If you have already applied, you must meet all the following steps within the 2 year date on your packet.)  All of the steps below have to be completed by the time you send in your Certification Packet for review by the Certification Committee but not necessarily in this order unless otherwise indicated.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

Read books from the required reading list and the DONA Position Paper.  
The current reading list is found in the Birth Doula Certification Guide above. It is helpful to complete the required reading before the workshop, especially if you are new to the field, but it does not all have to be done by then. It is required to read The Birth Partner, 4th Edition by Penny Simkin before the workshop. You will sign a Statement of Completion of Required Reading which is included in your certification packet.

Childbirth Education Requirement
(Please meet this requirement prior to the workshop.)
This step is a part of your training to become a doula. In order to certify doulas, DONA needs to have documented proof that you have obtained at least a minimum level of basic knowledge regarding the childbearing year.  Even if you have had children and taken a childbirth class then, DONA asks that you acquire this information from a more objective and doula-focused viewpoint.  This also assures that workshop participants have this basic understanding of childbirth and have current information before attending, because the Doula Workshop focuses on advanced skills and the role of the doula.

 There are three possible ways you can meet this requirement:
1) Completing an Introduction to Childbirth Education for Doulas course of at least 7 hours length that is taught by a DONA-Approved Birth Doula Trainer. It is listed on the DONA website as Intro. (You do not also have to observe a childbirth series) I offer an 8-hour course on the Day 1 of the Birth Doula Workshop, for those who need to meet this pre-requisite, and you will find a course description on the Workshop Agenda page.


2) Observing (as a non-pregnant participant) a comprehensive childbirth education series, preferably 12 hours or more of in-person instruction time taught by a certified childbirth educator, such as ICEA, Lamaze, Bradley, Birth Works, ACBE, or Hypnobabies. Try to find an evidence-based class in your area. Have the instructor sign the Childbirth Class Observation Form, which can be found here:


3) Training and active practice as a childbirth educator, midwife, or labor and delivery nurse. You will need to send proof of these in your certification packet.

Complete the Basics of Breastfeeding requirement by one of the following options:
(Note: This step does not have to be completed before the Birth Doula workshop but is recommended before attending your first experiential birth!)

 1)  Completion of an approved on-line lactation study program. Here is the link: Lactation Training for Doulas. I recommend the 5-CEU course for Oregon Doulas, because of the Medicaid population we are able to serve.


2) Participation in a breastfeeding class/workshop of at least 3 hours minimum taught by an IBCLC, CLE, or CLC.  An observation form can be found in your certification packet or download it now. 


 3) Completion of lactation consultant, breastfeeding peer counselor, or community breastfeeding educator training. (Examples:  La Leche League, WIC, Nursing Mother Council, etc.)

Attend a DONA approved Birth Doula Workshop of at least 16 hours in length.

 This is your primary training in becoming a Birth Doula. The Birth Doula Workshop that I offer is a total of 24 hours over three days, so you will be fully ready to get started into the field. For a course outline of this workshop and fees, see the Workshop Agenda page.  See the  Schedule and Locations page for a training in Oregon.

Step 2: Experience Requirements

After attending your workshop, arrange to provide labor support to several clients in order to gain experience and provide documentation for 3 qualifying births. The births must meet certain criteria to be counted. We will go over ideas to connect to potential clients in our session on Attracting Clients.

Before your first birth, purchase a DONA International Birth Doula Certification Packet by creating a member login on the DONA website.  Go to the DONA Boutique page to purchase the packet, which will be sent to you via pdf. Your packet includes all the information and forms required for certification. When ordered, you must sign an agreement to abide DONA International Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice while you are a certification candidate.  The packet is valid for two years from the date of purchase. We will review the details about this in the workshop and you will receive sample forms.

Step 3: Complete DONA’s Specific Requirements

  1. Become a member of DONA International ($100)
    You can join DONA as a member at any time, however, for certification purposes, it can be no later than right before you submit your application and materials for certification.
  2. View a DONA International Webinar on a Business Theme (Located on the Resource Library page)
  3.  Develop a resource list of at least 45 resources from at least 30 different categories.
  4. References: Meet with a birth professional, explain the role and scope of the birth doula, and have that person complete a written reference form.  Also, identify a client who is willing to complete a reference form.
  5.  Take a 10 question self-test (in the certification packet)
  6.  Write an essay of 500-1000 word length on the value and purpose of labor support.
  7.  Send in the application form and completed packet with a $110 processing fee.
     You will hear back from a reviewer from Certification Committee within a few weeks as to the approval process of your certification.

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