How to Get Birth Doula Certified (and the Problem with Umbrella Certifying Organizations)


There are literally over 90 (ninety!) certifying organizations listed on doulamatch right now - dozens of them available right here in NJ. There are many things to consider when choosing a certifying organization, such as: what communities do you want to serve, what services do you want to offer and your priorities, do you prefer online learning or in-person workshops, how much do you want to invest, what will your doula network be? A great way to start is to start researching avenues, chat with other birth professionals you know, and start saving time and money.

Currently one does not need to be certified in NJ to work as a doula and according to DoulaMatch only 17% of doulas listed in NJ also have their certifications listed (more are likely certified but have not uploaded their certification). Some cannot get certified due to limited resources, others choose not get certified because they do not wish to be bound by the agreements of a certifying organization, and still others are probably working on their certifications. This can become a point of conflict if a doula wishes to work at certain locations or if NJ receives the medicaid waiver is passed for doula services in NJ.

To give an example of a conflict with a location, the new Our Birthing Center in Morristown states it only accepts DONA certified birth doula affiliates. This is an example of how people making decisions, either at birth centers, hospitals, or in government, desire that safety net of saying they only accept doulas of X experience from the "largest and most respected doula organization in the world". DONA

This one-size fits all approach has the potential to significantly reduce the benefit of the medicaid waiver bill (if it goes thru) on the communities that could use it most. The reason being is that many doulas are not certified by DONA, especially doulas living and working in communities of color. To give an example of this, the Essex County Community Doula Program bases their training on the Ancient Song Doula Services Training, which is a program customized and independently developed by Chanel L. Porchia-Albert and Patricia Thomas of Ancient Song, i.e. not affiliated with an umbrella organization such as DONA or Bradley or Cappa. 

If the Medicaid waiver goes thru, many of the women who the Community Program serves and who are insured via Medicaid and could greatly benefit from taking advantage of the waiver, would not be able to use it because most of the doulas in the program are certified thru Ancient Song Doula Services, a program that is not necessarily the "largest and most respected doula organization in the world".

What can be done? Carefully consider these factors when choosing a doula path. Also... write your representatives and let them know the value of having a diversity of doula certifications and that a one-size fits all approach when it comes to doula care does not work and can in fact work against what they are trying to do - to have healthy moms and babies and improve pregnancy outcomes! 

Once you've considered all the above and if you choose to get certified - here are some of the organizations NNJ doulas have been more commonly certified thru: Ancient Song Doula Services, CAPPA, Doula Trainings International, ProDoula, DONA, Birth Arts International.

Good luck on your journey towards doula certification!