Families: One Labor-Intensive Job

Doulas catch on as a way to help families have better births and easier transitions to parenthood

Barbara Guralnick is leaving her New York City apartment carrying a blue plastic ball that measures 75 in. around, portable CD player and shoulder bag packed to the brim with lotions, washcloths and hair scrunchies.

"Oh, going to have a baby?" her doorman asks cheerfully. Guralnick, 38, smiles and nods but has no time to chat. She's a doula, also known as a childbirth assistant or labor coach. One of her laboring clients has called and requested her presence. She will be with the parents through the labor and delivery, which could be anywhere from three hours to three days.

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