Poster of a person in labor leaning over a chair, captioned "What does birth look like to you? #yesthisisbirth."


Keywords: Design Research, Human-Centered Design, Co-Design


Doula Design is a project for User-Oriented Collaborative Design, a class centered on design research and co-designing with users. My teammates and I worked with doulas, who are emotional caregivers for parents during the birth process, working anytime from pregnancy to the post-partum stage.

We began the project with a more-is-more design research phase, talking with and learning from as many doulas as possible. Once we synthesized our thoughts, we identified some key personas within the user group, as well as some insights about those personas and the user group at large. We found that above all, doulas seem to value empowerment (which we’ve defined as a combination of education and choice), emotional support, personal and client health, and finally, activism and awareness. 

We then sketched out some preliminary ideas to address pain points in the life of our doula personas. We took these ideas to our users, and asked them to participate in our design process. We asked doulas to find flaws in our ideas and our thinking, and to contribute their own ideas to the project, all the while developing our understanding of what could best impact the lives of doulas.

As a final stage of the project, we delved deeper into the idea we thought held the most potential. We found that doulas would often speak about tensions in their work surrounding charging clients for their services. In the United States, less than 20 major health insurance companies cover doula services, and even these companies typically only do so occasionally and by special request.

To address this issue, we designed a paradigm-shifting cultural intervention: a campaign centered around images of a variety of birth experiences and an inclusive and affirmative slogan, #yesthisisbirth. The campaign seeks to educate the public about birth options, challenge preconceived notions, invite people to engage in conversations about birth, and overall, create an expectation of empowerment and choice throughout the birth process. We believe that it is only once our culture has this expectation that health insurance companies will cover doula services.

Spring 2016
Team: Tom Heale, Anne LoVerso, Brennan VandenHoek


Getting to know the birth world

We interviewed a variety of doulas, midwives, and perinatal specialists to establish an understanding of birth work. We used card sorting and collaborative sketching to flush out priorities in doulas' lives and practices and areas for improvement.


Developing user personas

We distilled our learnings into three main doula personas who might interact with our product or service.


Sketching interventions

We narrowed our focus to doula awareness: our users believed that our society didn't publicize the variety of choice expectant parents have when planning for birth. Our users also noted that many major health insurance plans do not cover doula services.

Prototyping a campaign

For our final proposal, we mocked up materials for an advocacy campaign centered around affirmation of choice and agency in the birth process.

Poster of a person in labor squatting with their partner holding their arms. Captioned "What does birth look like to you? #yesthisisbirth."
A person in labor squats with their partner behind them. Captioned "What does birth look like to you? #yesthisisbirth."
A person giving birth in a water tub, cCaptioned "What does birth look like to you? #yesthisisbirth."
A person having a C-section, captioned "What does birth look like to you? #yesthisisbirth."
A person in labor doing the "doula hula." Captioned "What does birth look like to you? #yesthisisbirth."
A person in labor on a hospital bed, supported by a nurse. Captioned "What does birth look like to you? #yesthisisbirth."