Thursday, August 04, 2016

Finding Your Path in the World of Birth & Breastfeeding!

Disclaimer: As of this writing, I am currently the President of the International Childbirth Education Association

The time has come for you to take the next step in your career.  Perhaps you are still in high school or college.  Or perhaps you are changing careers to something that fits your interest or passion?  You may have helped friends and families with their birth experiences.  Stories and research about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding consume you.  And perhaps, you think of yourself as a "birth junkie".

Each week, I receive numerous email inquiries about how to begin a career in maternity care. Sometimes, it is a simple suggestion to change someone's major in college.  More often, it is a question of changing career fields and the need for a referral to an organization through which certifications can be obtained.

When investigating career options in the world of birth and breastfeeding, it is best to answer some preliminary questions:

  1. Do I want to specialize in either birth or breastfeeding or both?
  2. Do I want to catch babies?
  3. If I want to specialize in birth only, do I want to provide labor support or education or both? Do I want to be a nurse? Do I want to be a childbirth educator?
  4. Do I want to become a labor/birth doula?
  5. What about prenatal yoga or prenatal exercise or pregnancy massage?
  6. If specializing in breastfeeding only, do I want to teach or provide consultations or both?
  7. What about the postpartum period? Do I want to become a postpartum doula or perhaps teach newborn care classes?
Your next steps depend on the answers you have given to the questions above.

If you would like to become a nurse and work in maternity or newborn care, this would take a college education and sitting for your state's nursing board exam. A membership organization for nurses who work in maternity care is AWHONN, the Association for Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.  Their website is

If you are interested in catching babies, either becoming on obstetrician or midwife is the path you should take.  Studying obstetrics and becoming a nurse midwife are both college degrees. A membership organization for nurse midwives is ACNM, the American College of Nurse Midwives. Their website is

If you desire to become a non-nurse midwife, there are several schools in the United States that offer this path.  You will want to explore your options at  You will also want to investigate your state's legal stance on non-nurse midwifery.  Should you wish to sit for the NARM exam and become a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), please go to Other midwifery websites include MANA, the Midwives Alliance of North America ( and the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (

Teaching childbirth education classes is an extremely rewarding career and one that is the most "schedule-able".  This may be important to you if you are attending classes for a lateral degree or caring for your young children.  While there are no standard requirements or state laws governing childbirth education, it is indeed important to choose an organization who (1) provides an up-to-date and evidence-based certification program; (2) collaborates with other organizations and entities to expand the scope of their programs and (3) has the support of a variety of leaders in the field of childbirth education and maternity care.  An initial view of the organization's website will give you a snap shot of their organization. You may find their mission and vision statements, philosophy, white papers or Position Papers and training/certification requirements.

For an overview of choosing a childbirth education organization, click here.

For a quick, side-by-side comparison of childbirth education entities (with an international reach), please click here.

I use the word "entity" above because not all of the places from which you receive training for childbirth education (or even doula training) are organizations.  Some of them are non-profit organizations and some of them are for-profit companies, where the owners profit.  

Some entities require membership for certification maintenance and some do not.  Are there benefits to organizational membership?  If you are a member of a professional organization, you may receive the following benefits:

  • A unified voice for advocacy in the field.
  • Representation in collaborative work with other professional organizations.
  • Discounts on other trainings or certifications offered by the entity.
  • Discounts on annual conferences offered by the entity.
  • Applicable clinical updates such as newsletters, journals, etc.
  • Updated information for recertification.
  • Awards and scholarships.
  • Specialized members-only areas of the website.
  • Multiple levels of professional safeguards to minimize liability or risk.

Finding your place in the world of birth and breastfeeding can be difficult at first and often take twists and turns that you may not initially anticipate.  Enjoy your time in this amazing career path!

No comments: