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What, when, and how long? Doula time use in a community doula program in San Francisco, California.

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Community doulas, who provide culturally concordant, nonclinical support during and after pregnancy, are increasingly promoted as an evidence-based intervention to advance birth equity. As valued members of their communities, community doulas often provide extensive physical and emotional pregnancy, birth, and postpartum support at low or no cost to clients. However, neither community doulas' scope of work nor the distribution of time among their different work activities has been clearly defined or enumerated; therefore, this project sought to describe the work activities and time use of doulas in one community-based doula organization.


In a quality improvement project, we reviewed case management system client data and collected 1 month of time diary data from eight doulas employed full-time at SisterWeb San Francisco Community Doula Network. We calculated descriptive statistics for activities community doulas reported in their time diaries and each visit/interaction logged in the case management system.


SisterWeb doulas spent about half of their time in direct client care. For every hour that doulas spent with a client in prenatal and postpartum visits, on average, they spent an additional 2.15 h communicating with and supporting their clients in other ways. Overall, we estimate that SisterWeb doulas spend an average of 32 h providing care for a client receiving the standard course of care, including intake, prenatal visits, support during childbirth, and postpartum visits.


Results highlight the wide variety of work that SisterWeb community doulas do beyond direct client care. Acknowledgment of community doulas' broad scope of work and appropriate compensation for all activities is necessary if doula care is to be advanced as a health equity intervention.

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