Volunteer Doula Service
UC San Diego Doulas in the News
- Profile of volunteer doula Marisa Quiroz, U-T San Diego, Sept. 18, 2013
- She Speaks Language of Comfort, U-T San Diego, Aug. 16, 2012
- Role of Doula is Supportive, U-T San Diego, Aug. 13, 2012
- Comfort and Joy: UCSD Doulas Deliver, U-T San Diego, Dec. 15, 2010
All women who deliver at UC San Diego can request an on-call volunteer doula through the Hearts & Hands program. This is a free service, and hospital staff can call for a doula at a mother's request at any hour.
What Is a Doula?
A doula is trained to give one-on-one support to women in labor. She provides non-medical physical and emotional care to the birthing mother and may also lend a hand with communications between the mother, her family and the hospital staff.
Doulas are not midwives. (See Midwifery Service for information on delivering with a midwife.) A doula’s expertise is in offering comfort and reassurance. Her presence helps a laboring woman to feel safe and confident throughout labor, delivery and the immediate postpartum period. Help with comfort measures such as relaxation, breathing, massage and positioning means the mother’s partner can play an active support role with more confidence.
While nurses, doctors and midwives change shifts and must come and go to attend to other patients, a doula remains with the woman in labor and her family continuously until her baby is born.
Doula care has been proven to decrease:
- Length of labor
- Use of epidurals and other pain medication
- Episiotomy rates
- Cesarean section rates
New mom Michelle Brubaker and doula program director Ann Fulcher talk about how a doula can help a family through childbirth.
A doula’s presence also helps fathers or partners participate at their own comfort level, assists busy hospital staff and greatly increases a mother’s overall satisfaction with her birthing experience.
For any questions about doulas at UC San Diego (including doula availability), contact Ann Fulcher, 619-543-6269.
Hearts & Hands Program
- On-Call Program: On-call doulas offer their services on an as-needed basis to women having their babies with UC San Diego Health System, either in Labor & Delivery or the Birth Center, regardless of pain medication, type of delivery, or complications. Hospital staff may call for a doula on a mother’s behalf at any time of the day or night.
- Referrals: Sometimes it is clear that a woman will benefit from getting to know a doula while she is pregnant and can call on her when her labor starts. Referral doulas are available on a more limited basis. Talk to your midwife or physician for more information.
- Other Options: Private doulas may offer additional services not available through the Hearts & Hands Program. Expectant families hiring a doula should interview several before selecting one who best meets their needs.
Recipes for Life is full of photos, quotes and stories about cooking, life, pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. It has a glossary of cooking terms with a list of U.S. and metric cooking measurements. Each book is $25, and proceeds go to our doula program. Contact Ann Fulcher, email@example.com or 619-543-6269, for your copy.
Becoming a Doula
Hearts & Hands volunteers begin by attending a two-day introductory training followed by further screening and orientations. Upon completion, you will work with experienced mentor doulas until you are ready to work on your own. No prior experience is required, but volunteer doulas must have the emotional and physical stamina to attend long labors.
Volunteers also complete an interview, health screening and safety training through UC San Diego Volunteer Services.
We ask our volunteers for a minimum commitment of two on-call “shifts” a month. We need people with a flexible schedule and the ability to work very long hours from time to time. Our volunteers sign up for 12-hour morning and evening shifts, during which they are available to be called to the hospital when a mother requests a doula. When a doula is called upon, she then stays with the mother throughout her labor and delivery.
Once a doula commits to a woman during her labor, she stays until the baby is born. She does not leave when her shift ends. The average time a doula stays at a birth is 10-12 hours, but it may be shorter or considerably longer. After a birth, a doula often needs to rest, so volunteering should be offered only when she doesn’t have other commitments near that time period.
For more information on becoming a doula, call 619-543-6269 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For other volunteer opportunities at UC San Diego Health System, please see the Volunteer Services website.
Donate to Hearts & Hands Doula Program
This program is supported by UC San Diego Health System and others who believe that every woman should have a doula available at her baby’s birth.
To make a tax-deductible donation, call 619-543-6269 or donate online.
Frequently Asked Questions About Doulas
Why are birth outcomes better with doulas present?
Multiple randomized control studies have found that the presence of a trained doula benefits everyone. The studies have consistently shown that doula care is associated with shorter labors, less use of epidurals and other pain medications, lower episiotomy rates, and a 50% reduction in the cesarean section rate. Research has also shown better clinical outcomes for both the mother and the baby (including less admissions to neonatal special care units, better breastfeeding rates, and better family bonding). A doula also provides care for the mother’s partner and other family members, assists busy hospital staff, saves money, and greatly increases a mother’s overall satisfaction with her birthing experience.
Is a doula the same thing as a midwife?
No – A doula provides no medical or nursing care. Since she doesn’t have these responsibilities, or other patients to attend to, she can give her complete attention to being by a woman’s side for the entire length of her labor.
Does a doula replace the Dad?
A doula doesn’t replace anyone – She is another member of the birth team, and supports everyone in their own role. A doula’s presence helps fathers or partners participate at their own comfort level, showing them how and when to use various comfort techniques, providing information, and in some cases, looking after them as well. Partners are often grateful to be able to share the “coaching” responsibility with someone more experienced, and can therefore enjoy the birth experience more.
Are doulas used if a woman has an epidural?
Yes – a doula’s presence is very helpful during early labor and during the epidural placement process. She then continues to care for the woman and her family, offering emotional and informational support. And, when it’s time to deliver the baby, the doula’s assistance can be invaluable.
Does a doula attend cesarean section births?
Yes - a woman facing major surgery can still use a doula’s support. The doula may or may not be in the operating room, depending on the wishes of the family and the medical staff, but either way, the doula is still there for the new mother in the recovery room.
For Our Doulas
View the current doula schedule.