The Doula Project, cofounded in 2007 as The Abortion Doula Project by Mary Mahoney, Lauren Mitchell, and Miriam Zoila Perez, is a nonprofit organization of full-spectrum doulas based in New York City, New York, and is one of the first organizations to provide free full-spectrum doula care to pregnant people. Full-spectrum doulas provide non-medical physical, emotional, and informational support to pregnant people through a wide range of pregnancy experiences, including birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal anomalies, and abortion. Since 2007, The Doula Project has trained doulas to provide emotional and informational comfort to those experiencing fetal loss in support of its goal to create a society in which all pregnant people have access to care and support for both their emotional and physical, regardless of their pregnancy outcome.
Marshall Henry Klaus was a scientist and pediatrician who studied maternal-infant bonding in the twentieth century in the United States. Maternal-infant bonding is the psychological and chemical attachment between mother and infant. Klaus cofounded DONA International, an organization that trains birthing aides, called doulas, to provide physical and emotional support to laboring mothers. He also studied the differences between the layouts and quality of care provided in nurseries and birthing centers in different countries and compared them to those found in the United States. Klaus’s study influenced national and international initiatives to create hospital policies focused on promoting early bonding between mother and infant. Klaus catalyzed the advent of doulas and international policies that emphasized interaction between new mothers and their infants.
In 1992, five maternal-infant health researchers founded Doulas of North America, later renamed DONA International to train certified birth attendants called doulas to provide care to pregnant women both before and after the birthing process. Annie Kennedy, John Kennell, Marshall Klaus, Phyllis Klaus, and Penny Simkin used the term doula, derived from the Greek word for woman servant, to describe a female birthing aide who provides non-medical emotional and physical support to laboring pregnant women. Eventually renamed DONA International, the organization has certified over 12,000 doulas as of 2017. Though the organization aims to provide a doula to everyone who wants one, there have been controversies surrounding the accessibility, affordability, and necessity of pregnant women using a doula before and after birth. DONA International is the largest doula-certifying program in the world and has created global awareness of the risks and benefits associated with using a doula during the birthing process.
Dana Louise Raphael was an anthropologist and breastfeeding advocate in the US during the twentieth century. After she was unable to breastfeed her own infant, Raphael began to research why breastfeeding was more common in other cultures than in the US. As part of that research, Raphael cofounded the Human Lactation Center, where she studied the breastfeeding habits of mothers around the world. Through that research, she coordinated with formula manufacturers to educate women on the benefits of breastfeeding and formula supplementation to reduce infant mortality in developing nations. In addition, Raphael was the first person to use the word doula to describe a childbirth support companion for laboring women. Raphael was an advocate for the acceptance of breastfeeding around the world, and asserted the importance of doula support for new mothers in the form of breastfeeding education.