Doula Certification Professionalize your services with Lifespan Doulas.

birth doula certification
postpartum doula certification
end of life doula certification

What does it mean to be a certified doula?

Certification for doulas is optional as we are a self-regulating profession. There is no government-mandated regulatory or accreditation entity that oversees doula training and certification programs. Thus, there is no real meaning to a claim of "national" or "international" certification by a training organization. Most doulas are self-employed and can decide for themselves whether they choose to certify.

Certification in the doula world simply indicates that one has completed the requirements of a particular training program. Certification, at a minimum, guarantees that the person calling her/himself a "doula" has:

  • Completed a professional training program
  • Demonstrated competency regarding core knowledge in the field
  • Agreed to abide by a defined Scope of Practice

What is the difference between "certification" and "licensure"?

In the United States, licensure is a function of the individual states. Licensure involves government mandates, fees, and oversight, and is required for many professions such as hair stylists, daycare providers, home health care agencies, and more. Legislative efforts to regulate birth doulas are underway in a growing number of states. The motive driving these regulatory efforts is to qualify doulas for Medicaid reimbursement so that lower income families can benefit from doula support.

Currently, end-of-life are unlicensed and unregulated service providers in all states, while birth doulas are licensed in a handful of states. The picture for postpartum doulas is a little murky, but this will likely shake out in the coming months. Medicaid coverage for postpartum doula support is more limited, typically wrapping extra postpartum visits into the birth doula's role (though there may be exceptions to this we haven't seen).

State Registries for Birth/Postpartum Doulas

There is yet another complication to consider. As part of the push to make doulas more accessible, some states have passed legislation to enable Medicaid reimbursement for doula services but do not require state licensing. Rather, there is a voluntary registry that doulas can join to gain the capacity to be paid by the state for their Medicaid-eligible clients.

It is best to keep in mind that the status of licensing and third-party reimbursement for doulas is expected to change over time. There is no one-stop clearinghouse that is tracking these efforts in the individual states. See our article, "The Changing Landscape for Doulas and Medicaid" in our June 2022 Newsletter for a bit more information.

Attention Birth Doulas in Michigan!

Lifespan Doulas has been approved as a training organization to qualify birth doulas for state reimbursement for their services to Medicaid eligible clients in Michigan.

Community Access to Doulas

I have been a leader in the doula community for many years and have witnessed up close the growth of the doula profession. In the push to professionalize our special brand of support services, doula training organizations have created an ever-increasing number of post-training certification hoops for newly trained doulas. These may include documentation and evaluation of hands-on experience with clients, writing essays, extensive reading requirements, ongoing continuing education requirements, periodic re-certification, and more. Last, but certainly not least, is the additional costs involved for the doula in achieving certification/re-certification and the ongoing revenue stream this creates for the training organizations.

What effect do these requirements have on the greater doula community? The addition of certification fees to the cost of training, along with mandated annual membership fees, continuing education fees, and re-certification fees create barriers for lower-income doulas, many of whom cannot afford to become certified after investing in training.

As newly trained doulas begin to provide services, many discover that certification is not necessary. The reality is a large percentage of professional doulas do not choose to become certified. Of those who do complete certification, an even larger percentage do not choose to re-certify when the time rolls around, as the ongoing value of the certification is uncertain.

Streamlined Certification

We believe that extensive certification requirements and fees are unnecessary to achieve the aim of preparing well-trained, high-quality doulas to serve families in their own communities. Therefore, we have included certification in the cost of training and have removed barriers.

Certification Essentials

  • Lifetime certification is granted (no renewal required).
  • Certification is included in the training fee (no ongoing fees).
  • Payment plans must be paid in full before Certificate will be issued.

Credentials Earned

  • CBD (Certified Birth Doula)
  • CPD (Certified Postpartum Doula)
  • CEOLD (Certified End-of-Life Doula)

Doula Certification Requirements

Birth Doula Certification

Complete the self-paced study modules.

  • Doula Fundamentals
  • Childbirth Education Basics
  • Birth Doula Support Skills
  • Breastfeeding Basics for Doulas

Read four books.

  • The Birth Partner, 5th Edition, by Penny Simkin
  • Breastfeeding Made Simple, by Mohrbacher and Kendall-Tackett
  • Natural Hospital Birth, 2nd Edition, by Cynthia Gabriel
  • The Doula Business Guide, 3rd Edition, by Patty Brennan

+ Two More Steps

  • Sign Agreement to Abide by the Doula Scope of Practice.
  • Pass the online certification exam.

Postpartum Doula Certification

Complete the self-paced study modules.

  • Doula Fundamentals
  • Postpartum Doula Support Skills
  • Breastfeeding Basics for Doulas
  • Breastfeeding Support Skills for Doulas

Read five books.

  • The Baby Book, revised edition, by Sears
  • The Fourth Trimester Companion, by Cynthia Gabriel
  • Depression in New Mothers, by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett
  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th Edition revised, by Wiessinger, West, and Pitman
  • The Doula Business Guide, 3rd Edition, by Patty Brennan

+ Two More Steps

  • Sign Agreement to Abide by the Doula Scope of Practice.
  • Pass the online certification exam.

End-of-Life Doula Certification

Complete the self-paced study modules.

  • Doula Fundamentals AND
  • End-of-Life Doula Basics OR
  • Become an End-of-Life Doula (combination of Doula Fundamentals and EOLD Basics)

Your Choice

  • End-of-Life Doula Skills Workshop OR
  • 100% Self-Paced Program

Read four books.

  • Accompanying the Dying, by Deanna Cochran
  • Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
  • Stepping Stones, by Ellie Atherton
  • My Final Wishes, by Threshold Care Circle

+ Two More Steps

  • Sign Agreement to Abide by the Doula Scope of Practice.
  • Pass the online certification exam.

"Thank you for the wonderful reading material you have introduced me to. I did not expect in the least to feel so moved and intrigued by these books. The content is not only preparing me to help the dying but also myself. I am surprised and pleased by the great range of emotions that these readings are bringing up in me." 

Olga Galego, Ann Arbor, MI

"I have never in my life learned so much by taking a test! The correct answers to the questions I missed are now firmly in my mind. As with every other part of the End-of-Life Doula course, this test was well thought out to provide the maximum amount of learning for us."

—Jennifer Schwarz, Honaunau, HI

Cross Certification

Did you train with another organization or with Patty Brennan in the past? Cross Certification offers the opportunity to earn your doula certification through Lifespan Doulas.

Cross Certification is for folks who completed professional doula training:

  • With another trainer or organization, OR
  • With Patty Brennan prior to May 2021 (Birth/Postpartum Doulas) OR
  • With Lifespan Doulas prior to March 2020 (EOL Doulas)

Earn your professional certification for life, plus a one-year listing in our Doula Directory, for a one-time fee of $100.