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Press Release

Contra Costa Regional Medical Center Celebrates World Doula Week

Volunteer labor coaches at hospital ease birthing process for mothers.

March 28, 2013

When Laura Padilla recently came to Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (CCRMC) in Martinez to have her baby, she was asked if she wanted the assistance of a volunteer birth doula during her labor. She actually didn't know what a doula did, but after it was explained to her, she decided to give it a try. Padilla was so glad she did.

Padilla said the doula – sometimes referred to as a labor coach -- stayed with her for 11 hours during labor, suggesting comfort measures such as going for walks and taking hot showers. The doula even helped by watching and playing with Padilla's two other young children.

"She was really helpful," Padilla said of the doula. "She helped calm my nerves and answer my questions."

On Thursday, CCRMC will be educating visitors at the hospital about its volunteer doula program, "Heart and Hands," as part of World Doula Week. The event will take place in the first-floor lobby of CCRMC on Thursday, March 28 from 9:30 a.m.– 3:30 p.m.

Volunteer birth doulas at CCRMC provide non-medical support, encouragement and comfort to women in labor. The service is offered to expectant moms when they arrive at the hospital and it's totally free. Research has shown that the presence of doulas lowers fear and stress, enhances the experience of birth, and improves birth outcomes, said Dr. Karen Burt, director of the Integrative Health Program at CCRMC, which is part of the county health system Contra Costa Health Services.

"The patients love the doulas," said Dr. Burt, who manages the doula program together with a team of doctors, nurses and doulas. "They bring a steady, calm and grounded presence for the moms and the families."

CCRMC's Heart and Hands program was started four years ago by doctors and nurses in the labor and delivery unit. CCRMC is one of the few hospitals in the Bay Area with a volunteer doula program, according to Debbie Lavin, a longtime doula trainer in the region who volunteers at the hospital. CCRMC's program offers people who plan to become full-time doulas a place where they can get hands-on experience, Lavin said.

There are currently about 45 doulas in CCRMC's program. The doulas are asked to work two 12-hour shifts each month. Before they can begin volunteering at the hospital, they must complete a one-day training with doctors, nurses and other doulas. They also must also complete the volunteer application process and pass a background check.

For more information about volunteering at CCRMC and World Doula Week, visit

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Press Contact
  • Will Harper
  • 925-313-6903; 925-967-8125 (cell)