Hearts & Hands UCSD Volunteer Doula Program


About Us

Copyright : Caroline Brown

Our philosophy of care has been around a long time...

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. If you must take the lead, lead so that the mother is helped, yet still free and in charge. When the baby is born, the mother will rightly say: "We did it ourselves!"                            

                                                                                   - The Tao Te Ching 2500 years ago

And our doulas will be there wherever your baby will be born...


Any woman delivering with UC San Diego Health can request an on-call volunteer doula through our Hearts & Hands Program. This is a free service, and hospital staff can call for a doula at a family's request at any hour. 

Our experienced doulas are a helpful addition at any kind of birth including medically complicated births, induced labors, and cesarean deliveries. 

When a doula is called in for a mother-to-be, she stays with her continuously until her baby is born, no matter how long it takes, regardless of whether pain medications are used, or if complications develop. 

Our doulas attend births in both La Jolla or Hillcrest, in Labor & Delivery or our Birth Centers, and with  midwives or physicians.



Every woman delivering a baby at the UCSD Medical Centers in Hillcrest and La Jolla will have access to a volunteer doula.




- To work within the UCSD Medical Center's patient care team as volunteer birth assistants who provide non-clinical support in accordance with each mother's preferences during her childbirth.  

- To be a widely regarded, sustainable program model shown to enhance clinical outcomes and increase patient satisfaction.


Where we work - UCSD Medical Centers

UCSD's Hillcrest and Jacobs Medical Centers are the primary hospitals for the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.  With two distinct birth settings and a large staff of highly trained physicians and midwives, UC San Diego Health gives more childbirth options than anywhere else in San Diego. 

 Hearts & Hands doulas attend births in La Jolla or Hillcrest, in both Labor & Delivery units or our Birth Centers, and with  midwives or physicians. 

Jacobs Medical Center                              UC San Diego Medical Center - Hillcrest

9300  Campus Point Drive                       200 West Arbor Drive  

La Jolla, CA 92037                                    San Diego, CA 92103

Phone : (858) 657-7000                           Phone: (619) 543-6222      




The Hearts & Hands Doula Program began at the Hillcrest UCSD Medical Center in San Diego in late 1999 as a grass-roots project run solely by volunteers. It evolved steadily on its own for two years, growing in both the number of volunteer hours and the numbers of families served. In 2002, funding was received from the First 5 Commission of San Diego (then called the San Diego County Children and Families Commission) along with in-kind support from UCSD Medical Center. During this second phase of growth, Hearts & Hands focused on establishing the infrastructure of the program and was able to expand both outreach and volunteer management capabilities. In 2004, a two-year grant from the California Endowment enabled our program to continue to develop, and it has since become one of the largest and most successful hospital-based programs in existence. 

By 2019 Hearts & Hands doulas attended the births of over 5,600 babies, representing many thousands of hours of volunteer time. The clinical outcomes of these births have been outstanding: results include shorter labors, less use of pain medications, fewer medical interventions, and a significant reduction in the cesarean section rate. 

Doula care has also been shown to improve breastfeeding rates and enhance long-term parenting competency - and patient satisfaction is high.

 Looking toward future growth, the primary objectives of our program are: 1) Continue increasing the number of families in San Diego receiving doula care by expanding capacity for community outreach, and for recruitment, training, retention, and utilization of volunteers; 2) Ensure the project's sustainability by implementing a plan for a broad base of financial support; 3) Expand the availability of doula care in other communities by sharing best practices and lessons learned, and by providing assistance to other organizations interested in replication of this model.