DONA International


11th Annual DONA International Conference

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DONA International
35 E. Wacker Dr., Ste. 850
Chicago, IL 60601-2106
(888) 788-DONA (3662)
Local: (312) 224-2595
Fax: (312) 644-8557
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Our Founders

DONA International Founders: Mothering the Mother

Drs. Marshall Klaus and John Kennell, Phyllis Klaus C.S.W., M.F.C.C., Penny Simkin, PT, and Annie Kennedy, all renowned experts in childbirth and newborns, founded Doulas of North America (now DONA International) in 1992. Their goal was to promote doula care – continuous emotional and physical support for women during labor and early postpartum.

From left to right: Peggy and John Kennell, Phyllis Klaus, Penny Simkin,
Marshall Klaus and Annie Kennedy.

Marshall Klaus, while running the neonatal intensive care nursery at Stanford University in 1967, discovered that many parents of premature and sick infants were having difficulty adjusting to their new babies. At that time, mothers were not allowed into the premature nursery until just before discharge. Klaus joined forces with Dr. John Kennell, his colleague at Case Western Reserve University, to study bonding. Their work was instrumental in gradually opening premature and sick baby nurseries to parents worldwide and to allow parents of normal, full-term infants to be with their babies during the first moments after birth.

Klaus and Kennell also discovered the importance of continuous emotional and physical support from another woman to women in labor. Klaus and Kennell, along with Phyllis Klaus, Penny Simkin and Annie Kennedy, chose the word “doula” to describe a woman who serves other women. Our five founders have continued their research and frequently share their knowledge through their writings and speaking engagements.

John H. Kennell, MD
DONA International Founder
1922 – 2013

It is with great sorrow that we share the news of the August 27, 2013 death of one of our beloved founders, John H. Kennell, MD. A pediatrician, Dr. Kennell and his colleague, neonatologist Dr. Marshall Klaus, conducted the earliest controlled trials examining the effects of continuous support on labor outcomes. They noted impressive results.

In 1992, Drs. Kennell and Klaus, Phyllis Klaus, Penny Simkin and Annie Kennedy founded Doulas of North America (now DONA International) to train and certify labor support companions. His famous quote about doulas has inspired families and birth advocates worldwide: “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” (1998)

Dr. Kennell is renowned as an expert on bonding and attachment. He is the co-author of many respected books, including The Doula Book and Bonding: Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence. Dr. Kennell is remembered not just for his key role in founding DONA International but also for his humility, grace and tenderness.

He is a featured speaker on the DONA International video, Essential Ingredient: Doula, where he shares his great respect for the doula’s role in establishing a strong foundation for mothers and babies.

Our hearts go out to Dr. Kennell’s family, especially his wife Peggy. The family has asked that if desired, donations in his name be directed to DONA International to support our mission and the vision of Dr. Kennell and all of our founders. Please note that donations are not tax deductible. Mail your donation to DONA International, 35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 850, Chicago, IL 60601. Please be sure to indicate that this is a donation in memory of Dr. Kennell.

Rest in peace, Dr. Kennell. Thank you for all of the gifts you offered up to the world. Our lives are transformed because of you.

You may read the announcement here.

Books by our founders
• Klaus, M, Kennell, J. & Klaus, P., Bonding: Building The Foundations Of Secure Attachment And Independence
• Klaus, M. & Klaus, P., Your Amazing Newborn
• Klaus, M., Kennell, J & Klaus, P., The Doula Book
• Simkin, P. & Ancheta, R., The Labor Progress Handbook
• Simkin, P., The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions
• Simkin, Whalley, Keppler, Durham & Bolding, Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: the Complete Guide
• Simkin, P & Klaus, P., When Survivors Give Birth





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The Essential Ingredient: DOULA
The Essential Ingredient: DOULA is a documentary produced by DONA International in 2010 featuring commentary by all of DONA International's esteemed founders and some of its celebrated past presidents speaking on the origin and rationale of doula support. Their words are complemented by inspiring visuals of treasured birth and postpartum moments courtesy of Jodie Myers / MyBirthMovie. You are encouraged to use this documentary in your practice. Embed it on your web site and share it with potential clients and professional. You can view this documentary now* on-line on YouTube.
*Please be advised that you may not edit or cut the video or remix portions of it for other projects.

The Essential Ingredient: Doula

Learn More About Doulas
Read DONA International's Position Papers on Birth and Postpartum, and other evidence-based research.

Photography above by:
© Connie M. Ross
Used with permission.





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