Why Certification?

Like many doulas, I have been a lay doula doing this work for over 10 years now, and have only recently begun the process of certification. Why after all this time would I decide to pursue certification? Is certification* even necessary?

The specific process of certification varies and is usually determined by the organization (national and/or international) that the doula decides to pursue certification through. First and foremost, let’s be honest – the certification process is usually not cheap and definitely can be time consuming. Most organizations require certifying doulas to meet specific requirements (attending births, book reading, essay writing, evaluations, class audits, and more) to receive a certificate of completion. So why even bother?

Well, for many, certification makes them appear and feel more official and professional to potential clients and businesses. That reasoning is both understandable and frustrating. Understandable because that’s just the world we live in. The more visible I am to a wider audience allows me to reach more birthing individuals in the long run. I can’t argue with that. What can be frustrating is that the move towards certification can begin to erase the history of the traditional birth companion. Birth companions/doulas have been around since the beginning of time. They were our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, community healers. Their lived experiences and wisdom can never be contained to a certificate. The thought of requiring these elders and healers to be certified is almost laughable.

Miriam Zoila Pérez at radicaldoula.com expresses it best, “I am not necessarily an advocate of certification. It’s a cumbersome and costly process … for me doula work is not a business. It’s a form of activism.” So if that is how I feel, why have I chosen the certification route?

For me it came down to accessibility. The more visible I am to a wider audience, the more birthing individuals I can reach. And as a black woman, specifically living in the state of Georgia, reaching more IBPOC (Indigenous Black and People Of Color) is imperative. Why imperative? Because, the maternal mortality rate in Georgia is the highest of any state in the country.** And because birth work is my form of activism. It’s how I feel I can use my experiences and training to hopefully help change the world around me, with or without being certified. But if certification makes that more possible even in the slightest of ways, then for me it is worth it.

So what do YOU think? Do you think certification is necessary? Are you currently pursuing doula certification? Or have you decided certification is not for you? I would love to hear your thoughts!

*Training and certification are two very different things. We will get into the importance of training in another post.

**This is barely the tip of the iceberg. I will talk more in depth about maternal mortality rates as they pertain to POC in a later post.