Women want to become a childbirth instructor, also called a childbirth educator, for a variety of reasons. Some may have had such a positive pregnancy, labor, and birth experience that they want to empower other women to have the same joy in childbirth. Others may have had a difficult pregnancy or a negative birth experience and now want to educate women who are struggling during their own pregnancies. Still other women have no children, but enjoy teaching others about the choices and alternatives for care during pregnancy, labor, and birth. Childbirth instructors do not need a college degree or extensive experience, but it does help with potential clients and employers to be certified. Several organizations offer certification training and exams and each organization has a slightly different approach to pregnancy, labor, and birth.
International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)
The ICEA's stated mission is to support childbirth educators "who believe in freedom of choice based on knowledge of alternatives in family-centered maternity and newborn care." The ICEA also sees pregnancy and birth as an important event for a woman and her family, rather than an automatically perilous medical situation that needs intense medical management and control.
The ICEA offers a three-track training and certification program for previously certified childbirth educators who want to pursue "fast track" certification with the ICEA. For childbirth educators who have little or no previous experience, the full training program starts with the Basic Training Childbirth Educator Workshop. The total cost for the workshops, study guides, required reading materials, and certification exam is approximately $1200, but the ICEA does offer some limited scholarships. In addition to its childbirth educator training program, the ICEA also offers certification programs for perinatal fitness educators and postnatal educators.
Lamaze International's childbirth educator certification program reflects its commitment to normal birth, meaning a labor and birth that progress without unnecessary medical interventions or procedures. Lamaze International has adapted six evidence-based practices from the World Health Organization that form the foundation of Lamaze's philosophy of maternal and newborn care. These six practices include:
- Avoidance of unnecessary labor induction
- Allowance for freedom of movement and positioning during labor
- Continuous professional support during labor and birth
- No routine medical interventions such as episiotomies or Pitocin injections to deliver the placenta
- Non-directed pushing in upright positions
- Rooming-in with no separation of mother and baby after birth.
Each training program accredited by Lamaze International sets its own program fees and admission requirements, so the cost for each program varies. It takes approximately 6 to 12 months to become a childbirth instructor through Lamaze International and the organization offers six $500 scholarships per year to candidates who are enrolled in a Lamaze accredited training program and who demonstrate a financial need. Some individual training programs also offer scholarships to instructor candidates. When candidates have successfully completed a training program, they are eligible to apply for permission to take the certification exam. The exam fee is $200 for candidates from the United States, but goes up to $250 after July 1, 2009.
Become a Childbirth Instructor
It does cost a bit more and take more time to become a certified childbirth educator, but it helps a childbirth instructor's potential clients and employers to know that the instructor has met certain professional standards and gone through in-depth training. In addition to the organizations already mentioned, the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth (Bradley®), Birthing from Within, and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) also provide training and certification for childbirth educators. While some educators become certified with only one organizations, others hold two or more certifications in order to demonstrate the highest professional capability in the field. .