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Who We Are

The volunteer doula program at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) was established in February 1993 to provide labor support to women and their families. Some volunteers were drawn from a loosely organized group of doulas already working at SFGH, others were trained doulas recruited from the community. Program participation and administration decreased until 2004 when a group of nurses, midwives and community doulas worked to support the program through its rebirth. Doula volunteers are recruited from the community and include doulas who have completed an initial training as well as fully certified and/or experienced doulas. Many thanks for joining us!


Women who deliver at SFGH receive care from nurses, nurse-midwives, and physicians (OB/GYN, and Family Practice) and because SFGH is a teaching facility, patient care also often involves students. Patients may see many faces over the course of labor and their providers often attend several women at the same time. Cultural differences and language barriers can also complicate care. Additionally, many women have difficulty negotiating a complex and highly technological system.


Doula volunteers work mainly 12 hour shifts, and while the commitment is only to the assigned period, many choose to stay past the end of a shift to see a woman through her birth. During the 12 hour shift, doulas are on call to women in labor or anyone else who may need doula support on the unit. Doulas are in the unique position to provide a continuous supportive presence for laboring women Doulas provide non-technological physical and emotional support, working with family and friends to involve them in the woman’s care, and assist in communication with the MD, CNM and nursing staff. Recently doulas have begun offering postpartum care as well with a focus on helping to establish and maintain breastfeeding. 


Although the program administrator is a hospital staff member, doulas assist in essential parts of the program upkeep. This includes fundraising, volunteer coordination, administration, and projects such as classes for pregnant teens, postpartum doula care in the home, abortion doulas, and doulas for women in jail. All participants in our program are encouraged to help with current projects but it is not mandatory. The efforts of all who have dedicated themselves to this program are much appreciated, both by medical care providers, RN’s and by the women and families who are served. We welcome you. 

You are assisting at someone else’s birth. Do good without show or fuss. Facilitate what is happening rather than what you think ought to be happening. You must take the leap, leap so the mother is helped yet still free and in charge. When the baby is born, the mother will rightly say: we did it ourselves! 
- Tao Te Ching, 2500 Years Ago
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