For decades, Seattle-area families have been blessed with the opportunity to learn about the experience of childbirth with Penny Simkin, PT, CCE, CD (DONA), who is considered the mother of modern childbirth education and of birth doulas. In addition to offering childbirth education, doula services and birth counseling from her Seattle practice, Simkin also shares her knowledge as senior instructor and namesake of Bastyr University’s Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations.
Soon her reach will be expanding with the opening of the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations at Bastyr University California in January 2013.
“Southern California has a mature and vital birth professional community and a tradition of pioneering advances in maternity care,” says Simkin Center Director Annie Kennedy, CD(PALS). “Simkin Center seeks to join this community to bring our educational program model and assist in developing strength, leadership and resources for birth professional and, ultimately, childbearing families.”
Workshops through the Simkin Center are open to the public and are of interest to anyone who cares for pregnant and new families. Programs include:
- Childbirth Educator Training
- Postpartum Doula Skills Workshop
- Birth Doula Skills Workshop
- When Survivors Give Birth Workshop
Penny Simkin will inaugurate the California program in January 2013 alongside fellow birth vocations pioneer and Simkin Center Instructor Phyllis Klaus, MFT, LCSW. Together they will teach the workshop “When Survivors Give Birth”; the two also co-wrote the book When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse on the Childbearing Woman. (Read more about the class in our article “Childbirth Workshop Teaches Compassion for Abuse Survivors.”)
Decades of Experience Heading to California
In 1968, Simkin began practicing childbirth education and labor support, reviving the ancient art of providing continuous care in childbirth with her pioneering role in establishing the “birth doula.” Doulas provide physical, emotional and informational support to women and families during and after childbirth.
The Simkin Center for Birth Vocations also has been a pioneer in the field since opening in 1988 as a program of the Seattle Midwifery School. The Seattle Midwifery School and Simkin Center merged with Bastyr University in 2009.
Simkin’s vision for the center is to continue providing vocational training for those interested in promoting the emotional and physical health of pregnant women and families, from prenatal assistance to labor support and postpartum care.
"My whole professional life has been devoted to providing education, support and counseling for childbearing families," Simkin says. "My only higher passion is my own family."
Reaching Out to All Individuals
Although Simkin Center classes are a natural fit for many health care professions, the training programs have a much broader appeal, whether you’re a curious community member looking to take a workshop, already an established doula seeking out continuing education, or a student or recent graduate seeking to complement your degree.
In September, Bastyr University California welcomes its first class of students pursuing their Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, which Kennedy says is a natural fit with birth professions training.
“Doulas are integrative care providers,” she says. “They focus on the whole person, just like naturopathic doctors and other natural health care providers.”
There is no admissions process required to register for workshops, which allows a wide range of the community to become involved. Financial assistance is available through the Simkin Center for those who seek it.
For more information about Simkin Center workshops or to register, go to the online course calendar.