Doula Certification Professionalize your services with Lifespan Doulas.

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. Currently, there are no states where doula licensure is required.

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 decline 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 the 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, 4th 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 four books.

  • Depression in New Mothers, 3rd Edition, by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett
  • The Fourth Trimester Companion, by Cynthia Gabriel
  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th Edition revised, by Wiessinger, West, and Pitman
  • The Doula Business Guide, 4th 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)

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 (booklet)

+ 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
"I felt the exam questions were an appropriate and challenging reflection of what was learned in the course."

—Jessica Smith, Kenai, AK

Medicaid reimbursement for birth doulas?

Efforts to gain reimbursement for birth doula services to Medicaid-eligible families are underway in a growing number of states. While limited postpartum support may be covered in some states, there is no corresponding effort to provide government funding for end-of-life doula services to low-income families. More than half the states are at various points in the process, including:

  • States where legislation has been passed and doulas are actively being reimbursed
  • States where favorable legislation has been passed and is in the process of being implemented
  • States where related statewide action is underway such as a pilot program or a doula registry
  • States where action has been taken but there has been no progress
  • States where no action has been taken

Learn more about the status of Medicaid reimbursement efforts for birth doulas below.

Attention Birth Doulas in Michigan!

Lifespan Doulas' Birth Doula Training fulfills requirements to qualify doulas for reimbursement for their services to Medicaid eligible clients in Michigan. Learn more at the website below.

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.

"Thanks so much for your quick response and for providing an accessible way for someone like me (who has been a doula forever) to recertify." 
—S.S. (long-time doula)