Childbirth Today: How Obtaining Your Doula Certification Can Help You

There is much we can learn from the wisdom of the ancients. Highly evolved societies such as the ancient Greeks had many interesting practices that are just as useful to us today in our modern lives as they were to people in ancient times. The practice of using a doula, or birth companion, is one such practice. While the original role of a doula was closer to that of a wet nurse and the original women who served as doulas were also classified as slaves, the useful essence of the role itself has been revived in recent years.

This trend towards using doulas to assist women and their partners during and following the birth process comes about due to a number of shifting trends. Some of these trends include:  the higher incidence of women having children later in life, the increase of caesarean sections during the birth process and the dual career households many couples have that can make caring for one or more newborns more difficult than in the past. Learn how obtaining a doula certification can enhance both your enjoyment and skill set in your nursing career.

Doula Defined

Today, the term “doula” at heart refers to a woman who serves as a knowledgeable and experienced birth companion to a pregnant woman. In practice, however, since there is no set standard for who is qualified to serve as a doula or how those qualifications can come about, choosing a doula is a very individual process for women. Increasingly, nursing professionals who want a more hands-on career with fewer patients in their caseload are adding doula certification to their skill set. So, for instance, if you are a clinical nurse leader who wants to move away from management and back into patient care, obtaining your doula certification can be a great way to accomplish this objective by allowing you to transition to a more rewarding related career field.

What a Doula Does

In the same way that a pregnant woman hires an obstetrician for their knowledge and skills regarding the medical procedure of the birthing process, she is also looking for specific types of skills when she chooses a doula. These skills can include but are not limited to: assisting with pre-birth planning, helping with choices relating to birth method or high-risk pregnancy issues, attending the birth to help the woman avoid a caesarean section if possible, easing anxiety around pregnancy and the birth process, providing support during and after pregnancy (this can be especially critical for women without partners or sufficient friends and family for support) and more. For nursing professionals who plan to add a doula certification to their resume, increasingly women are drawn to doulas who have dual credentials with a medical background. In this way they can be sure they will receive the caring, warm and hands-on support they need emotionally, and also have access to a trained medical professional to answer their clinical questions regarding pregnancy, birth and postpartum issues on an ongoing basis.

Becoming a Doula

The foremost organization that governs professional doulas in the United States, Doulas of North America (DONA) offers a certification program that can put you on the path towards becoming a professional doula. If you have taken online courses in the past, such as an online masters degree in education , you will already be skilled in navigating the internet to find courses and workshops in your area that will fulfill the requirements to become certified as a doula. In addition to DONA, there are other organizations that also offer doula certification programs, including the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) and various online and regional organizations as well. Because there are no specific uniform education requirements or credentialing process for becoming a doula at this time, you can theoretically hang out a shingle and start working as a doula without having any formal training.

But earning your doula certification shows your future patients that you are serious about your profession and that you have taken the time to affiliate with a governing organization to learn how to best fulfill your obligations to them. Certification does not take much time, but it can lend valuable insight to the work you are about to embark upon. Depending on which certification program you choose, you may attend an in-person workshop over the course of a few days, study online in a self-paced format, or receive printed materials to study at home. Certification will occur once you have passed the examination administered by the organization you have chosen to gain it from.

Author Bio: Carla Ceary spent several years practicing as a clinical nurse before the birth of her first child. To prepare for the birth, a friend suggested she hire a “doula.” Carla is now studying to become a doula herself.