January 14, 2003

UCSD Doulas Provide Distinctive Service to Region's New Mothers

Throughout history, and across all cultures women have traditionally assisted one another in childbirth. These "assistants" have always been at the bedside providing emotional and physical support, holding a hand or offering calming words to the mother and family during their labors.

Mayri Sagady, CNM, MSN, director of UCSD Birth Center (far right) with doulas in training. 

Recognizing the importance of such support during childbirth, UCSD Medical Center, Hillcrest established the Hearts & Hands Volunteer Doula Program three years ago within the Birth Center. The term "doula," which was adopted from the Greek word meaning a woman's hand servant, is now used as a name for a woman trained as a birth assistant. Doulas, who provide no medical care, are not the same as midwives, and are not friends or family members. But they play an important role as a trained provider of continuous, one-to-one care during a woman's labor and birth. While doulas are no longer unique in medical settings, a completely volunteer staff is.

"UCSD's Doula Program is an innovative, model program that provides trained volunteers during the birthing process," said Mayri Sagady, CNM, MSN, director of the UCSD Birth Center. "Research shows impressive benefits to mother and baby when a doula is present to help a woman through her labor, delivery, and early postpartum period," she added.

Studies have shown a direct link between doula care and less use of epidurals and other pain medications, shorter labors and even a 50 percent reduction in the cesarean section rate.

Today, a group of 35-40 volunteer doulas offers this unique service free of charge to mothers delivering at UCSD Medical Center in San Diego's Hillcrest district.

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News Media Contact:
Jeffree Itrich

UCSD Health Sciences Communications HealthBeat: http://health.ucsd.edu/news/