Conference Summary

The SMC Doula Conference: A Cultural Explosion of Diverse Doulas is designed to celebrate and highlight the importance of diversifying the doula profession. This conference will welcome over one-hundred attendees reflecting African Americans, Latinas, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Native Alaskans, Asians, immigrants, and refugee doulas, as well as student doulas and midwives, birth workers, health care professionals, public health professionals, community leaders and community members.

Our goal in convening at this pivotal time in history in the picturesque, doula-friendly city of Portland, Oregon, is to reduce health inequities in perinatal care and foster critical conversation to support the doula model of care as a solution to existing maternal and infant health inequities in cities and rural areas that have poor birth outcomes. It is important that doulas of all ethnicities and cultures unite to learn cross-cultural competencies, best practices for improving perinatal outcomes, and how to build successful doula businesses. Additionally, doulas of color need the opportunity to gather in safe spaces to emotionally process the oft-heavy work they do with their clients and find relief from the stress of working in racially hostile health care settings.

A culturally competent doula is trained to provide emotional support for pregnant women and new mothers, fathers and parents, using health literacy to empower their clients and community ( The doula-client relationship is built on trust; the relationship cannot exist without both parties. As more families learn the benefits of doulas and legislation creates policy for increased access to doulas in communities of color, the need for racially and culturally diverse doulas increases as well. And there are doulas entering the profession to fulfill these needs; according to “Perspectives of Doulas of Color on their Role in Alleviating Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes: A Qualitative Study,” doulas of color enter the profession to help reduce the health inequities that Black women and other women of color experience. This conference will be an opportunity for attendees to engage with one another and create a dynamic space to advocate for recognized evidence-based solutions for improving infant and maternal health in communities of color.

By 2044, the US population will be majority people of color, yet statistically communities of color have more challenges in accessing early prenatal care, culturally appropriate maternal and infant care, and obtaining doulas who reflect their race, ethnicity, and social values.

Expanding the culturally diverse doula workforce is a necessity to improve birth outcomes in ethnically diverse communities, because culturally diverse doulas understand the needs of their community and clients have trust with doulas who reflect their ethnic and cultural values. Research substantiates that doula services provide the following: shorter labors, reduced Cesarean section, reduced medical interventions, reduced use of regional anesthesia, higher breastfeeding rates in the first hour after birth, and an increased feeling of satisfaction for the mother/ birthing person and father.