What Is a Birth Doula?

1. What is a birth doula?
A birth doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth. Source (dona.org)

Affects of having a Doula Supported Birth:

Shorter Labor
Women report feeling a high level of empowerment during Labor/Delivery
Women report a greater satisfaction in their childbirth experience
More positive assessment of their baby

Long-term benefits:

Improved breastfeeding
Increased time spent with baby
Decreased postpartum depression
Resulted in more positive maternal confidence during labor which carries over into a more positive experience for the newborn
Resulted in more positive newborn health

“. Studies show that when a doula is present, women have less painful labors, fewer medical interventions, fewer Cesareans, and healthier babies. Recent evidence suggests that when a doula provides support, women are more satisfied with their experiences, and the mother-infant interaction is enhanced for as long as two months after the birth. Doula support has been found to have a positive effect on a couple’s relationship as well….” Anne Deans, Your Pregnancy Bible

Results of 7 North American Trials of Labor Support including 2259 women
(comparing continuous labor support by doulas with usual care)

(# subjects)
5 min.
Apgar <7
Cogan (13)
1988 (25)
N.A. No diff N.A. decrease N.A. N.A. decrease
Hodnett (14)
1989 (103)
No diff increase N.A. decrease No diff N.A. N.A.
Kennell (7)
decrease decrease decrease No diff decrease N.A. decrease
Kennell (8)
1993 (570)
decrease N.A. No diff N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A.
Gordon (15)
1999 (314)
No diff No diff decrease No diff No diff decrease N.A.
McGrath (9)
1999 (531)
decrease decrease decrease decrease No diff N.A. N.A.
Trueba (16)
2000 (100)
decrease decrease decrease N.A. N.A. N.A. N.A.

KEY: No diff– no statistically significant difference between groups;N.A. – not assessed; increase – statistically significant increase in the supported group; decrease – statistically significant decrease in the supported group.

The results of 3 North American Trials 3, 17, 18 including 8052 women (comparing continuous labor support by NURSES – not doulas – with usual care) showed no differences in any outcomes listed in Table 1.

Findings of Hodnett’s et al meta-analysis of 15 trials from N. America, Europe, and Africa(10)

Women cared for during labor by a birth doula, compared to those receiving usual care were

  • 26% less likely to give birth by cesarean section
  • 41% less likely to give birth with a vacuum extractor or forceps
  • 28% less likely to use any analgesia or anesthesia
  • 33% less likely to be dissatisfied or negatively rate their birth experience

Source (Dona.org)