By Tracy McPhillips, CCE(GS), LCCE, PCD/PDT(DONA)

Today’s post is written by my friend and colleague Tracy McPhillips. Tracy is a postpartum doula and a DONA Approved Postpartum Doula Trainer. Additionally, Tracy reviews and approves postpartum doula certification packets for DONA International. Tracy has been helping doulas by reviewing their postpartum certification for the past four years. Through this process, Tracy has collated some helpful tips for those who are preparing to submit their postpartum certification packets for review. She is sharing them here in hopes that those of you who are preparing to turn in your packet will find it useful. If you are a birth doula looking for similar information, check out the post on birth doula certification packets here. – Sharon Muza, Blog Manager, DONA Doula Chronicles

Top seven tips for postpartum certification packets

  1. Please read over the packet very carefully. There are quite a few details, so take your time. DONA International has high standards. We are fortunate to be the best of the best.
  2. Keep your membership current. If you are close to your renewal date, please renew before you send in your certification packet for review.
  3. Include all receipts from purchasing the packet, membership, and/or packet extension.
  4. State exact dates of your DONA workshop, if all dates are not on the printed certificate.
  5. A nice tip for the essay –  copy and paste the five categories onto a blank document and write in your own words what is being asked under each category. When you are done, delete the copied categories and voila! Your essay is complete!
  6. Don’t reuse the same resource many times in different categories. Some overlap is fine, but having 45 different resources is going to help you support your families in the long run and is what is required for certification.
  7. Number the categories for the resource list. This is not a requirement, but often the list I read is incomplete, sometimes due to scanning or miscounting. Numbering the categories will surely help you have the correct number of resources AND it helps the certifier to see if a page is missing.

Following the above tips helps your postpartum certification packet move quickly through the process with fewer delays and supports the reviewer during the review process.

Five tips for selecting qualifying families

  1. Think about the families you work with as not only service but learning experiences. When we start something new, we need practice. Please consider that when putting together your qualifying families. It may not be the first three families you work with. It might be the 5th, 7th and 8th families that you end up using for certification. You have two full years. Please continue to gather information and ask families to fill out evaluations until you have the best. Quality matters here, not speed. You will learn from all the evaluations as you progress in your support. DONA International is only asking for three qualifying families. Consider waiting until they are the top three! Wow us!
  2. On the Postpartum Doula Support Record Sheets, please fill in as this example,  “__40__ Weeks gestation on date of birth of newborn(s): _1/1/17_ Birth weight(s) ___7lb 8oz_ “
  3. When working with families, please remember that for a family to qualify, the packet states, “The support you provided must have concluded within the fourth trimester (12 weeks after the birth of the baby) and be in accordance with the scope of a postpartum doula.”  Please do not send in a family that you worked with for more than 12 weeks. I feel so bad when I have to tell a certifying doula to send in an entire additional set of documents for another family because the support continued beyond 12 weeks.
  4. For evaluations, both the birth parent and the co-parent/support person needs to fill in all the scores. Reviewers can only accept ONE unanswered score. Sometimes a parent/support person will either not circle a number or not fill in an answer. Please double check that everything is completed on the evaluation. Please wait until you receive an eval that is complete or ask that family to fill in any unanswered scores before including in your packet.
  5. Make sure you spend at least eight of the 12 support hours during the day. DONA International needs to know that you are interacting with the families using the “NEAR” acronym.


I am humbled to work with doulas on their journey towards DONA postpartum doula certification. I am ever grateful for the time we spend discussing the families they work with, the challenges, successes, and what support doulas themselves need to serve their families and where to find it. When I review packets, I am amazed by the work that doulas do. I observe daily the effect we have on families. We are making a difference. You can find more information on becoming a postpartum doula here. Thank you for doing this work.

About Tracy McPhillips

Tracy McPhillips, CCE(GS), LCCE, PCD/PDT(DONA) is a childbirth educator and serves on the Education Committee for Great Starts, a program of Parent Trust for Washington Children. She is also a postpartum doula, certified through DONA International and serves on the DONA certification committee. Tracy is a DONA approved Postpartum Doula Trainer who is an instructor at the  Simkin Center’s Postpartum Skills workshop.  Her postpartum practice is in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, where she lives with her family.