Doulas and Birth Companions at UNM Health

Doulas

A doula is a trained, non-medical support person who provides emotional, physical and informational support during pregnancy, labor and new parenthood. Doulas are trained in labor support techniques and have knowledge of the labor and birth process, common procedures and infant feeding. A doula offers encouragement, advocates for you and helps communicate your birth preferences with medical staff.

A doula will stay with you throughout your labor and is focused on your needs. Doulas can also support your partner, but they do not substitute for other support persons who accompany you. A doula can help your support people understand what's happening and offer tips about how to support you. A doula can also allow your partner to take a break without feeling like they're leaving you alone.

Prenatally, a doula can teach you what to expect during your labor and birth experience. They can introduce you to pain management techniques such as breathing exercises, massage, or rocking on a birthing ball. During your labor, a doula will help you with these and other techniques. They can also explain medical terms or procedures, offer information on what is and isn’t normal and act as your advocate with visitors and providers.

Support for all Types of Births

Doulas support women through natural births, C-sections, and births when moms choose epidural, IV pain medication, or nitrous oxide.

UNM Hospital recognizes the benefits of having a support person in the delivery room. The UNMH Birth Companion Program offers free labor and birth support for patients who give birth here. Some birth companions are certified doulas, some are not. However, they have training in emotional and physical support during labor and provide many of the same support services as doulas.

UNM Health Birth Companion Program

The UNM Health Volunteer Birth Companion Program was started in 2018 by two UNMH providers (a doctor and a midwife) and two community doulas. The UNM Health Birth Companion program is a volunteer program that provides free birth companions to all families birthing at the University of New Mexico Hospital. We believe that all families have the right to excellent emotional, mental and physical support while welcoming a child into the world.

The birth justice-focused program aims to provide respectful, compassionate, and non-judgmental care. We acknowledge the diversity of people and their reproductive choices and experiences. Through our work, we hope to improve birth experiences and lessen health disparities in maternity care.

We are hospital volunteers who can be with you when you are in labor, when you are giving birth, and immediately afterwards. We provide physical, emotional and informational support. Our focus is helping you have a happy and satisfying experience. We can also meet with you prenatally.

We provide support while you are pregnant by offering a prenatal meeting with one of our birth companions. These meetings are currently being offered virtually. During the meeting, we will talk to you about how you are feeling during your pregnancy and what you want for your labor. We can talk about pain management, common procedures and what to expect when you are on the Labor and Delivery floor. We can help you plan for getting support during the early weeks after your baby is born.

During labor, we can help you get the information you want and understand what medical providers are saying, including what procedures are being suggested. We also help with pain management by assisting with position changes, providing counter pressure and massage, help with breathing techniques, relaxation, visualization and more.

Your birth companion can help you feel more comfortable by getting you warm blankets, more pillows, a birth ball and things to eat and drink, as appropriate.

We do not take the place of partners, family or friends. However, we can help them support you. We usually stay for about an hour after you give birth. During that time, we can make sure you are comfortable and can help with early breastfeeding.

UNMH Birth Companions work on an on-call basis and are available most days. If you would like a cirth companion, you can let your nurse, midwife or doctor when you arrive on the Labor and Delivery floor. You can also call us yourself. It is best, however, to contact us several weeks before you expect to give birth and arrange for a prenatal meeting with one of our birth companions. We can then tell you more about the program, answer questions and arrange to have a birth companion available to be with you during your labor.

How Can I Support the UNM Health Birth Companions program?

The UNMH Birth Companion program relies on volunteers and generous donors. To give funds, please donate online.

We welcome volunteers who can commit to four 12-hour on-call shifts per month for a six-month period. This time is required to participate in the program and complete hospital-based training. We also encourage volunteers to help with prenatal meetings with patients.

Experience in birth is not required to be a volunteer. However, volunteers without birth experience will have to complete additional training. Our training begins with a two-day initial training covering the following topics:

  • Basic information on pregnancy and childbirth
  • Introduction to the Labor and Delivery floor at UNM Hospital
  • Hands-on practice with labor comfort measures, communication and patient-centered care, scope of practice, trauma-informed care, birth justice and implicit bias in healthcare.

Training is followed by an onboarding process that includes orientation to the hospital provided by Volunteer Services. Additional training includes an orientation by a nurse to the Labor and Delivery floor and the completion of online modules about breastfeeding. Volunteers who are not trained as doulas will be mentored during training shifts. We also provide continuing education on a variety of topics.

If you are interested in volunteering, email us or fill out an interest form.

Research shows that women who had a doula with them during labor and delivery had shorter, more manageable labors.