The Process of Getting a Dona Birth Doula Certification: Classes and Reading

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You can find the first post in this series here, which explains how to get started on earning your DONA certification as a birth doula. This section will focus on the classes you must complete and reading list.

To get your certification, you will need to attend a couple classes other than your workshop, unless you have previous experience in those fields The Dona website says the following:

Complete one of the following:
A. Observation of a complete childbirth preparation series (not as an expectant parent). Click here to view the list of approved childbirth educational organizations. Exceptions may be made for candidates who do not have any approved certified educators within a 30 mile radius and are unable to complete one of the alternatives. with detailed information about the most extensive and in-depth childbirth classes that are available. 
B. Attendance at an "Introduction to Childbirth for Doulas" class offered in conjunction with a DONA approved birth doula workshop.
C. Training in midwifery or childbirth education (see the list of approved childbirth education organizations)
D. Recent or current work experience in labor and delivery as a registered nurse
Click here for FAQs on the Childbirth Education Requirement for Birth Doula Certification

Submit at least one of the following:
  • Proof of completion of lactation consultant, breastfeeding peer counselor or community breastfeeding educator training.
  • Proof of completion of one (1) of the following approved on-line study programs.
  • Lactation Education Resources – affordably priced Complete Self-Learning Program. Learn more
  • Breastfeeding Basics – free on-line independent study program.Click here for directions for accessing and registering for the program. You can find their web site here.
  • Proof of participation in a minimum three (3) hour breastfeeding workshop covering the basics of breastfeeding offered to birth and postpartum related professionals, such as those offered at conferences or in conjunction with DONA approved workshops. The workshop must be taught by an educator with recognized breastfeeding credentials (IBCLC, CLE or CLC).

What does this mean to you? Well, unless you are already a lactation consultant, breastfeeding peer counselor, community breastfeeding educator, midwife, childbirth educator or nurse, it means you will have to complete at least two classes. 

For the childbirth education class, you are required to attend a full series as an observer, not an expectant parent. This class must be taught by one of the DONA approved childbirth education resources, which you can find a list of here. Pretty much just call the instructors of courses in your area, if you don't know which method they are teaching ask and make sure it's on the DONA approved list. If it is, explain why you are attending the course. They may offer a special discount or completely waive the fee for doulas in training, and may even ask you if you'd like to participate as a guest speaker! The course I'm taking for this is an 8 week ICEA course, which I've found to be very comprehensive for explaining a typical, hospital birth scenario (likely to be your most experienced birth as a doula), but previously I've taken a 12 week Bradley course, which can provided a lot of in depth education for a natural birth, as well as techniques for a birth partner to use. I'd highly recommend either one. 

For the breastfeeding course, you have a couple options. You can choose to do a course called Lactation Management for Doulas which costs $39-59 or you can choose to do the  Breastfeeding Basics course which is free. I did the Breastfeeding Basics course, so I can really only explain it with confidence. It was a great course, which was very all encompassing. There are seven study modules, and it took a total of around 5-6 hours for me to complete with breaks while both of my kids were home with only me to take care of them. Some parts were very challenging, but the course itself provides all the answers necessary for passing the tests, and I never had to check an outside resource. I'd suggest this course.

Dona also requires you to complete a required reading list of five books and the DONA position paper, some of which you are able to choose. With the exception of the DONA position paper (which you must purchase from DONA's website) you can purchase these books on your own new, borrow from the educator of your childbirth class, borrow them from another doula, purchase them used, or borrow them from the library. How long this part of the process takes depends on your reading speed really, because you can be making time to read these books anytime during the entire process. 

Summary of Classes and Reading:
  • Unless you have previous education in the fields, you must take at least two classes.
  • There are several options available for completing both the childbirth education and breastfeeding courses.
  • These courses may be free or very low cost because of your position as a training doula.
  • You must read at least five books from the DONA required reading list.
  • These books can also be gotten free or cheap if you look around.
Necessary Costs So Far:
  • DONA Workshop-$400 (estimate)
  • Certification Packet-$45
  • Books-$0-200 (estimate)
  • Childbirth Education Course-$0-400 (estimate)
  • Breastfeeding Course-$0-59
  • Total-$445-1104
Part three coming soon!

The Process of Getting a Dona Birth Doula Certification: Getting Started

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I've noticed in speaking with friends and people on various forums there are a lot of questions associated with what you need to do to become a DONA certified birth doula. I thought it might be nice to write a series that explains the requirements and talks about how long they take and how difficult they are from my personal experience. Keep in mind that at the time of writing this I am still earning my certification, and though I've completed most of the tasks necessary, so will be missing for now. I'll update as I complete them.

Getting started:
Pretty much the best way to get started is to check out the Dona International website page for birth doula certification. This page gives you a nice list of what things you need to do and a suggested order in which to complete them. You can also watch some documentaries that focus on the work of a doula, such as Doula! The Ultimate Birth Companion or The Essential Ingredient: Doula. These will not only show you start-to-finish the job of a doula in labor, but also give you an idea of what a prenatal and postpartum visit would look like. It would be a good idea at this point to talk to your partner about the time requirements of being a doula. You will be on call ideally for a 10 day window around your clients' due date, and she may even go into labor outside of that. You will obviously need to think about childcare (if you have children) and how easily you will be able to leave work (if you work outside of the home). Also, is this a good idea for you financially? Dona has some scholarships available, but you will also need to buy your certification packet, pay the processing fee for that packet, supplies for your work, materials for marketing, and possibly the books you'll be using to study. I don't mean to discourage you because becoming a doula is still a much cheaper career option than most, but you should always think about the cost of your commitment.

First steps:
Now that you've decided this is something you want to do, you should find a workshop in your area! Your workshop will be a 16 hour course, taught over the span of two 8 hour days. It will generally cost around $400, but may be less if taken with a friend or if you register by a certain date. It will be attended by other prospective doulas in your area, which can provide a great base for support and friendship, and it will be taught by a DONA certified Birth Doula trainer. She should be able to answer any questions you have about pursuing certification, getting clients, dealing with emotional labors, contracts, insurance, collecting supplies, and helping your career fit into your family schedule. Your instructor will be a wellspring of information and you should ask her everything you need to know!

Dona has a tool on their website for looking up workshops in your area. Use it to check out where and when the nearest workshop is, and e-mail the course instructor for more information. If the upcoming class in your area is a few months away, don't be discouraged, there are a lot of things you still need to do that you can complete before taking this class. Another option is to look up any workshops in nearby communities, or in an area that you visit often. The date of a workshop in my area was eight months from when I searched for one, and my instructor mentioned she had a class coming up sooner in Omaha. I ended up going on a mini vacation to visit my family who lives there, and attended my workshop that same weekend! Be creative with your time and find what works for you.

After attending your workshop, you will have a better understanding of the certification process and an ignited interest in learning everything possible about birth. Your next step is to purchase your Certification Packet from Dona for $45. You may choose to purchase a DONA membership at this point, but you are not required to. Your certification packet will be emailed to you, and you can print it off all at once, or just as necessary. It includes explanations of the certification process, the DONA required reading list, paperwork for births, and much more. You could complete the reading list before purchasing your packet if you wished, but I find this way works better because you can read your books as you're completing other required tasks.

Summary of Getting Started

  • You need to research the role of a doula, and decide if this is something you want to do.
  • Talk with your family and work about the time required and what arrangements need to be made.
  • Find and attend a DONA Birth Doula Workshop
  • Purchase a certification packet.
Necessary Costs So Far
  • Dona Workshop-$400 (estimate)
  • Certification Packet-$45
  • Total-$445
Part two will be available soon!

Contact Me

Friday, August 10, 2012

I can be reached through the following:

Call anytime for information or to schedule an appointment!

Read and Watch

You may find these books and films helpful during your pregnancy and postpartum period!



Here's a list of useful link you may want to check out, to assist you during your pregnancy and to help you have the best birth possible!

About Me

My name is Andrea Sandvig, and I began working as a doula in June of 2012. I am currently seeking my birth doula certification through DONA International, and plan to pursue training in breastfeeding support and placenta encapsulation techniques in the future. I am a mother of two, and their births made me who I am today. You can read about them here and here. I am able to provide personal experience and support in the following aspects of birth, pregnancy and parenting:

  • Teen Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth
  • Past Abuse or Trauma Support
  • Home Births
  • Cesarean Births
  • Disabled Mothers
  • Difficulty Breastfeeding
  • Post-partum Depression
  • Cloth Diapering
  • Attachment Parenting
  • Baby Wearing
In my free time I enjoy knitting, crocheting, practicing ukulele, playing with my kiddos, exploring Des Moines with my husband, and watching Doctor Who!

If you would like to contact me about a free consultation you can reach me through the following!

My Birth Story-Iris Sakura

I had been pounding on my thighs to end their pain for two days by the time I went into labor. It was early in the morning on December 8th, and it was gently snowing for one of the first times that warm year. I called my doula, who talked to me about how I was feeling and what I should do. We agreed that I should stay calm and relax, but of course I couldn't. I moved, I danced, I tried to watch a movie, and got a little bit of rest. I asked my doula to come over to my home, and we talked about what I wanted to do, listened to music, and worked through a lot of contractions. She gave me calming massages and reassuring words, and I can't begin to explain the value of that. I also rolled the birthing ball down the hallway with my son, and changed positions a lot. Fast forwarding to a few hours later, we decided to walk around the mall, as I was progressing slowly. We contacted my midwife, who told me I should stay calm and reserve my energy for when I'd need it, and that my baby would come when she was ready. At this point my doula went home to spend some time with her family. I called her back to my house close to midnight, when things had really begun to pick up. We also had Nate and I's mothers come over in case our son woke up.

After a lot of trips in and out of the bathtub, I finally began transition and my midwife came over. After a couple more hours we all agreed things were going slowly and we chose to rupture my membranes. There was an immense rush of water, and my midwife's assistant said "This mam's got a river inside her!" which calmed me down and made me laugh. We tried a lot more positions and finally I was dialated enough to push, even though I wasn't having the urge to. We found out that my cervix had a lip, which my baby's forehead was stuck on, which caused me to not feel the urge to push. My midwife held my cervix open while I pushed to get my baby's head past it which hurt a TON, but was the second time I'd had pain during my labor (the first being my thighs aching).

I pushed for what felt like ages, but it was really only about half an hour. I had been in labor over 20 hours at that point and I was exhausted, and every push felt like I was climbing a mountain. My husband, who had been a constant source of comfort, reassurance and motivation, leaned behind me and held me as I delivered our baby. Crowning was the most intensely painful and beautiful experience of my life. At that point I felt I could understand that she was really being born from my body. She turned as she crowned, and I was asked to reach down and feel her head. It was kind of funny, I told myself they were lying, and I wasn't touching my baby's head, and that what I was feeling was actually my vagina falling out of my body. Looking back now I understand this is a common but ridiculous fear to have, and I always laugh at myself a bit for feeling that way. When my baby was born she was placed up on my chest, and I finally got the meet the little person I'd been growing all these months. I was intoxicated with her. Even though I'd been in labor for 22 hours, I was wide awake and ready to play with her and hold her and feed her and everything!

Soon after, we moved to the bathtub, and cleaned up, then cuddled on the couch. My mother in law took my son out for a day on the town, and my mom stayed at our home and made pancakes for us. My husband and I laid in bed with our new baby, and rested and cuddled all day long. This positive birth experience completely undid my previous negative birth, and gave me the foundation I needed to pursue my career as a birthworker. I will always consider my daughter's birth to be a defining moment in my life.
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