DONA International is the oldest and the largest international doula organization in the world. Founded by five visionary leaders who saw a need and filled it, DONA has grown into an amazing organization and has been hard at work certifying birth and postpartum doulas for 25 years. Doulas work hard to complete the requirements for birth or postpartum certification and proudly display their new credentials after earning them. I value certification for many reasons and recognize every doula for the effort they put in to achieving certification.

In 2015 DONA International established a new credential, Advanced Certified Doula. The Advanced Doula designation honors DONA certified birth and postpartum doulas who have made major contributions to DONA International, to the doula profession, and in the field of maternal-infant health.

DONA International recently announced the seven doulas have been awarded this advanced credential for 2017 and I would like to recognize them here on the blog. Each and every one of them is deserving of this recognition. They have worked tirelessly for many years to improve the birth and postpartum experience for many families both in their communities and beyond.

I am proud to present DONA International’s 2017 Advanced Certified Doulas.

Heather Crossan, AdvCD/PCD/BDT(DONA), LCCE, CLE

Heather has had the pleasure of supporting Canadian families for over 9 years as a doula and educator. After a career in professional theatre, Heather transitioned to doula life and has found her true passion helping parents thrive in their new lives and doulas excel in their careers.

Originally from St. John’s Newfoundland, Heather now lives in Calgary, Alberta with three large dogs, one small cat and her husband Chris.  Learn more about Heather on her website. Some of Heather’s career highlights include:

  • Lamaze Childbirth Educator Seminar Instructor
  • Founder – Essential Support For All – No-Cost Doula Support / Pre-Natal Education Program
  • Founder – Doula Essentials Inc.
  • DONA International Approved Birth Doula Trainer
  • President – Calgary Doula Association
  • SPAR, Alberta – DONA International
  • DONA certified Birth and Postpartum Doula
  • Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator
  • Certified Lactation Educator

Jessica English, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

Jessica is the owner and founder of Birth Kalamazoo and Heart Soul Birth Pros. Her local group is Michigan’s first and largest doula agency. In addition to her work as a birth and postpartum doula, she is an active childbirth educator and has been recognized by Lamaze International as a fellow in the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators. Under the Heart Soul Birth Pros umbrella, she offers DONA approved birth doula workshops, business trainings for birth workers, an active Facebook group for brainstorming and discussion, and heart-centered business coaching. Jessica is also the editor of the International Doula magazine and a longtime volunteer with DONA International in a variety of roles. Learn about Jessica on her website.  Some of Jessica’s career highlights include:

  • Owner and Founder, Birth Kalamazoo
  • Owner and Founder, Heart Soul Birth Pros
  • Postpartum Doula, Certified Birth Doula, DONA International
  • Certified Childbirth Educator, Lamaze International
  • Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators
  • Birth Business Coach and Trainer
  • Editor, International Doula magazine (DONA International)


Melinda came to appreciate how overwhelming being a new parent can be from the experience of having her own children. She left a career as an oceanographer and environmental scientist to become a birth and postpartum doula. Melinda loves supporting new families and doulas. She’s a DONA Postpartum Doula Trainer, and a DONA Advanced Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula with more than twelve years experience and hundreds of families supported. She especially enjoys working with families experiencing a high-risk pregnancy or perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (depression, anxiety, etc.). Learn more about Melinda on her website. Some of Melinda’s career highlights include:

  • Owner and Founder of Calm and Confident Doula Care 2004- current
  • Began postpartum doula work in 2004, DONA Certified in 2005, over 100 families served.
  • Began birth doula work in 2006, DONA Certified since 2006, over 200 families served.
  • Trained as a Lactation Educator and Childbirth Educator
  • Childbirth Educator with Great Starts Birth and Family Education 2008-2010
  • Postpartum Support Group Facilitator 2007-2010
  • Began training new Postpartum Doulas in 2007, DONA Approved Postpartum Doula Trainer since 2011.
  • Long term member of local doula organizations NAPS Doulas and PALS Doulas, including numerous volunteer positions providing support around Northwest Doula Conference planning, community awareness, certification, continuing education and mentorship of new doulas.
  • Board member of Postpartum Support International of Washington 2005-2013 (including a year as Interim Chair)
  • President of PALS Doulas 2014-2016, a period of major rebuilding and growth for the nearly 25-year-old organization.

Amy Gilliland, Ph.D., BDT(DONA), AdvCD(DONA), CSE (AASECT)

Amy researches and teaches about doula labor support, women’s sexual experiences, infant mental health, and the psychological needs of people during the birth experience. She is an AASECT certified sexuality educator, adjunct psychology faculty at Madison College, and one of the first DONA International birth doula trainers.  Over her thirty-two year career, her work has spanned the perinatal spectrum. Dr. Gilliland’s research has been published in JOGNN, Midwifery, Journal of Perinatal Education, Sexuality and Culture, and the Wisconsin Medical Journal.  She is considered to be a thought leader and visionary on birth doula issues through her influential blog, Doulaing The Doula.  Her new book is The Heart of the Doula: Essentials for Practice and Life. You can learn more about Amy on her website.


Kyndal has been an active birth doula since 1995, attending over 300 births.  As a DONA-approved Birth Doula Trainer and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, she has nearly 5000 hours of experience teaching expectant parents and doulas and her unique Confident Birthing education platform is used by childbirth educators in the US and abroad.  She has volunteered for DONA International since 2011 and currently serves as Director of Education. Kyndal writing has been published in the International Doula Journal. She uses images as an integral part of learning and her photography has been published in The Essential Homebirth Guide, Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-emergence of Woman-Supported Childbirth in the United States as well as the Simkin Center and DONA International websites.   To learn more about Kyndal, please visit her website.

Laurie Rashkin, MSEd, LCCE, AdvCD(DONA), CD(DONA)

Laurie Rashkin loves anything involving birth and babies. Her passions are teaching childbirth preparation classes, attending births and cuddling newborns. She has been a volunteer birth doula and childbirth instructor for the Orthodox Jewish Community for the past 39 years. Her article “Raising Children as a Doula” was published in March in the International Doula magazine. The Jewish Federation of Buffalo recognized her as a Woman of Distinction in 2014 and 2017.




Since I took my first childbirth class 42 years ago in Puerto Rico, I became very interested in the world of birthing.  My classes were offered by a Cuban midwife who had immigrated to Puerto Rico.  We became good friends and at the time, I didn’t even know what a doula was but this midwife asked me if I wanted her to attend my birth.  When that woman walked into my labor, touched my shoulder and with her soft voice told me that I was doing so well, I felt that everything had fallen into place and I was fine.  I still remember that moment as if it was yesterday.  After that, I took her classes three times until one day she told me I could be teaching those classes.  It was not until I moved to Florida 26 years ago and began working at Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, that I once again became involved with childbirth education.  The Lamaze instructors’ office was next to mine and I asked them if I could observe their classes because I loved everything related to labor and birth.  Soon enough I became a Lamaze instructor and have been teaching since then.  My mentor, Anne Quirk, had talked to me about doulas and a grant that they had received to open a community doula program.  We began to put it together and in 2002, we established the first community doula program in Orlando with five doulas who were trained through DONA by my good friend Rae Davies.  We did an average of 250 births a year and reduced the C-section rate 14% in the first two years of our program.

I saw the need in Puerto Rico for doulas and Rae and I began offering trainings there.  Soon enough I became a DONA trainer myself and even though I offer trainings in English and Spanish in Florida, I have been training in doulas in Spanish in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.  I am now offering trainings to Spanish communities in the United States.  My last training abroad was offered in Salt Lake City, Utah, to a Spanish community who received monies to open a doula program at the University of Utah.  In November I will be training doulas for another Spanish community in North Carolina, who has also received a grant for a doula program. I have a passion for what I do. Some career highlights include:

  • Programs Specialist at Healthy Start, Osceola County, FL
  • Under Healthy Start, directed the Osceola Community Doula Program

Please join me in congratulating these new Advanced Doula Certified doulas and thanking them for their contributions to families around the world.  They are truly making a difference in the lives of parents and babies many times over.  If you are interested in learning more about the Advanced Certified Doula credentials and how to submit your own application, please follow this link. 2018 applications will be excepted during International Doula Month in May 2018.