Becoming a Certified Childbirth Educator

What does it take to become certified?

While the details vary between organizations, generally you would need to: take a childbirth educator training, observe classes taught by an experienced childbirth educator, student teach a class while an experienced educator observes and evaluates your teaching, attend 2 births, take an exam, and pay a certification fee.

Is it necessary to become certified?

  • For legal reasons? No. Childbirth education is not a licensed profession with the kind of oversight typical for medical professionals.
  • To get students to pay you for classes? No. Private pay students generally don’t know anything about certification, so wouldn’t know to ask about it.
  • To be able to take medicaid for classes? No. In Washington state, to accept medical coupons for payment, Medicaid requires that the instructor has completed an approved training program (such as the Great Starts workshop), but they do not require certification beyond that.
    • Note, in order to take medical coupons, you do need to become an approved provider, which involves a full review of your curriculum and other steps.
  • To get a job? Maybe.
    • Some employers require certification. In many settings, the person hiring you will be a nurse or other non-educator. She may not be familiar with the types of certification, and will accept any certification. Some supervisors know a lot about the field, and not only require certification, but have preferred organizations. When I hire, I prefer candidates who are certified with Great Starts, ICEA, or Lamaze.
    • Even if certification is not required, it is definitely a strength to be certified.

So, are there any other reasons to go through the certification process? The simple answer is: YES!


  • By observing other instructors, you learn about:
    • Different teaching styles, and the different “vibes” that teachers create in a group
    • A wide variety of teaching techniques and innovative ways to cover topics
    • What topics various instructors emphasize, versus which topics they move through quickly. (And between classes, you can ask them why they make those choices)
  • By observing births through the eyes of a childbirth educator, you can reflect on:
    • Current maternity care practices and informed choice in action
    • Ideas that the parents learned in class that helped them have a better birth (or ideas that COULD have helped them if they’d only known in advance)
    • How women cope with labor and how their partners help them, and what stories you can tell in class that illustrate different coping methods
  • By student teaching a series, while being evaluated by another instructor:
    • You get practice teaching, while having a “safety net” there who you know will help you catch and correct any mistakes you make
    • You get feedback after each class session on what you can do to improve your teaching for the next week
    • You have someone to troubleshoot with as you discover the challenges that come up for you during a class series
  • By doing your readings, preparing for an exam, and taking an exam, you:
    • Make sure you have a comprehensive knowledge of all the topics that will be covered in a childbirth class series
    • Practice answering a wide variety of the types of questions that may come up during a class
    • Gain confidence in your level of knowledge

Other benefits of certification:

Depending on which organization you certify with, they may also offer continuing education programs, newsletters that help keep you apprised of obstetric news, and referral services through an online directory of educators.

So, now that you’re sold on reasons to get certified, click here to learn about your options for certification.


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