By Jenn Fontaine, LCCE, FACCE, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), PCD(DONA) CLC, CHBE, WSGB Instructor

Today’s post is written by my friend and colleague Jenn Fontaine. Jenn is a birth doula certification packet reviewer extraordinaire. Jenn has reviewed and certified over 450 birth doulas and is well on her way to reaching her 500th packet. Through this process, Jenn has collated some helpful tips for those who are preparing to submit their birth certification packets for review. She has gathered them here in hopes that those of you who are preparing to turn in your packet will find it useful. Look for a similar post addressing postpartum doula certification in the near future.- Sharon Muza, Blog Manager, DONA Doula Chronicles

I have loved reading through certification packets and talking with the new birth doulas. So much more than I ever thought I would. I have learned so much about birth around North America and around the world! I am constantly humbled by the services of these doulas. The professionalism, the kindness, the wisdom these doulas are showing is keeping the DONA International standard high.

When I reflect back on my experiences going through hundreds of packets, a few things come to mind that every certifying birth doula should be aware of. These top six items are important for birth doulas that are submitting their certification packets to be mindful of:

  1. Required Perinatal Health Care Professional meeting happens outside of a birth

    A written reference from a Perinatal Health Care Professional Form is a part of the certification requirements. This is often mistakenly filled out by a professional while the doula is at a birth and used as an evaluation instead of the reference that it needs to be.

As written in the certification packet –  “Meet with a perinatal health care professional, explain the role and scope of a birth doula, and request completion of the Written reference from Prenatal Health Professional Form.” This requires a meeting outside of a birthing situation where you have asked a perinatal health professional for a bit of their time to explain the role and scope of a birth doula. On page 43 in the certification packet, you will find the questions that the professional will need to respond to. I recommend that you read over that page and be familiar with the topics they will be responding to on the form to help guide you in what to share about doulas during your meeting. If you are wondering who can fill out this form, many of the professionals that you have on your resource list would be an excellent choice. Any professional who works with pregnant, birthing or postpartum families would be a great choice. Think of this as an excellent way to let someone know how wonderful doulas are (especially you!) and that they can refer clients to you!

  1. The Business Webinar

There are many great webinars on the DONA International website. The doula reviewing your certification packet needs to see that you watched one of the business specific ones found here.  There are four amazing business webinars to choose from. Many new doulas have told me that they don’t feel like they need or want a business webinar but after watching one, they share that there were many benefits, they learned so much and were so glad they invested the time in this topic.

3. Essay on “Purpose and Value of Labor Support”

The most common mistake that certifying birth doulas make in this area is using the essay to share their own personal birth story or reasons for becoming a doula. Page eight of the certification packet expands upon what should be included in this essay. The “Purpose and Value of Labor Support” essay can be a great tool for you to state what a doula does and does not do. The packet reviewer needs to see that you understand the value of a doula for the birthing person, the value to the partner/family, what the evidence shows about the benefits of doula support, and what is the doula scope of practice.

Many people are very stressed when completing this essay and worry unnecessarily about grammar. Take a deep breath and pretend you are explaining these things to someone who does not know what a doula is. You can do it without getting hung up on the fact that you need to write an essay. The content of the essay is the key point here.

  1. Cesarean birth with no labour support

Submitting a cesarean birth for certification when there was no labour support and the doula was not in the operating room is not a qualifying birth. Here is a breakdown of the three combinations of births you can submit:

  1. Three vaginal births
  2. Two vaginal births and one cesarean where you provided labour support to the birthing person throughout the labour. You do not need to be in the OR in this case. (But if you were allowed in, that’s great.)
  3. Two vaginal births and one cesarean where there was no labour support AND you were in the OR for the cesarean.
5. Arriving at the birth in late active labour/transition/pushing

Certification packet reviewers need to see that you were with the client from the onset of active labour. Let’s look at a couple scenarios to see how things might line up.

  1. You arrive at the client’s home and labour with them for a few hours before heading off to the hospital or birth centre. When you arrive at the birth location, the client is found to be seven centimetres dilated. You documented the change in behaviour from when you first joined the client and the first cervical exam and can comfortably say you supported the client from the onset of active labour.  Yes, this counts!
  2. Your client does not have any vaginal exams but you spent hours with them and can document the changes in the stages of labour. Yes, this counts!
  3. Your client calls and asks you to meet them at the hospital, you arrive and they are pushing. No, this does not count for certification.

That doesn’t mean that you were not an amazing support to this client or that you did anything wrong. The certification review just needs to see that support was provided from the onset of active labour for each of the three births submitted and that the total labour support for all three births together was at least 15 hours.

6. Two Self-Assessment Tool questions that everyone gets wrong

These two questions are most often answered incorrectly. Double check that you are including the correct answers to avoid a delay in certifying.

  1. How to correctly indicate that you are a certified Birth Doula with DONA International
  2. The First stage of labour is considered  ____ to ____ centimetres.

Please also fill out everything that is asked for in its entirety. It helps move things along when the reviewer doesn’t have to do math to figure out how long the doula was with a client or ask you to add what you learned from this experience.

Please reach out to your trainer if you need any help with your birth doula certification packet, that is what trainers are there for and they love to see you succeed!

About Jenn Fontaine, LCCE, FACCE, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), PCD(DONA) CLC, CHBE, WSGB Instructor

Jenn has been supporting the families of Winnipeg as a birth doula (attending several hundred births) and childbirth educator (preparing over a thousand new families) since 2002.

Over the years, while supporting families, Jenn has made education a priority.  She has achieved DONA International Certification as both a birth & postpartum doula, become a DONA International Birth Doula Trainer, a certified Lamaze Educator and accredited Lamaze Program Director.

In 2016 Jenn was given the honour of being inducted as a FACCE (Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators), a fitting recognition of her significant contribution to childbirth education and her effort to promote safe and healthy birth through evidence-based practice.

Jenn is passionate about passing along her knowledge to families and other doulas, knowing that she is learning just as much from them! She loves training new doulas and childbirth educators, launching the I.T.S. Birth accredited Lamaze Training Program in 2016.  Jenn is a sought-after instructor, she’s traveled all over North America, and even to Australia to teach and help new doulas find their own path.

She currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with her husband, Marc, her four amazing kids and two drooling bulldogs: Rocky and Scarlett. She is undergoing treatment for her coffee addiction but there are doubts as to its success. You can learn more about Jenn on her website.

What do all those letters mean??

  • LCCE – Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator
  • FACCE – Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators
  • Lamaze Program Director
  • CD(DONA) – Certified Birth Doula, DONA International
  • BDT(DONA) – DONA Approved Birth Doula Trainer
  • PCD(DONA) – Certified Postpartum Doula, DONA International
  • WSGB – When Survivors Give Birth Instructor
  • CHBE- Certified HypnoBirthing Educator
  • CLC- Certified Lactation Counselor