Even before the word “doula” became familiar in North America, one woman devoted her life to improving childbirth for women and their families, giving rise of the modern childbirth movement.
Now Penny Simkin, PT, CCE, CD (DONA), the namesake and senior faculty of the Bastyr University Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations, has been honored Swarthmore College’s Arabella Carter Award for dedicating her work to being a childbirth instructor.
Arabella Carter, who attended Swarthmore from 1884 to 1886, devoted her life to peace and social justice and became the first Peace Superintendent of Philadelphia in 1892.
Since Simkin graduated from Swarthmore in 1959, she has helped more than 12,000 women, couples, and siblings prepare for childbirth.
“People don’t realize the emotional value that occurs at every breath,” Simkin said at the award ceremony June 7 in Pennsylvania. “Doulas help the woman feel safe and reassures her that she is not alone.”
A birth doula assists the pregnant woman and her family in preparing and carrying out their birth plans. She stays with the laboring mother throughout the entire birth process, providing emotional and physical support and an objective viewpoint. She helps her clients get the information they need to make informed decisions.
As a doula, Simkin has assisted thousands of women and couples through childbirth, and she also has trained thousands more women to follow in her footsteps as a doula and other childbirth instructor. She is the author of books and articles on birth for parents and professionals.
To learn more about Simkin, read the Bastyr University article, “Mother of Modern Childbirth Education Still Leads Movement.”