By Mark Rudi

Laboring Together

UNMH introduces birth companion program

It's been a labor of love, and now The University of New Mexico Hospital's (UNMH) Birth Companion Program is up and running.

A birth companion is someone who supports a woman and her family during labor, both physically and emotionally. The birth companion offers support with comfort measures, touch, movement, utilizing the tub or shower and getting patients to use the birth ball.

The idea to bring the program to UNMH started about four years ago and it was founded by Tamara Gardner, CNM; former UNMH resident Carrie Griffin, Carrie Murphy, CD; and Paula Reiss, CD. The program offers free birth companions to incarcerated, uninsured and under-served Medicaid patients delivering at UNMH.

"There are some huge benefits," Gardner said. "Some studies have shown there is decrease in interventions, including use of pain medication, epidurals, decreased C-section rate, improved perception of their birth. Nationally they are used in areas where there is a lot of health disparity and there have been a lot of programs that focus on improving that."

A lot of hospitals have similar models and UNMH touched based with a few different programs to figure out how to base its model, Gardner said.

Birth companions are volunteers and are on-call for a 24-hour period between 8 a.m. and 8 a.m.

The program is still relatively new, having started in December, but they are already getting positive feedback.

"I talked to one of the doulas and her experience was she felt like she was really needed," Gardner said. "It was with a woman who was not having a birth that she expected. She felt like that support was really important."

Volunteers go through an interview process and training for the program, which occurs in the spring. The program currently has around 20 volunteers. Those interested in becoming a birth companion can visit the UNM Birth Companion Program on Facebook or for more information, contact