Doulas are non-clinical caregivers who provide physical, emotional and informational support to pregnant people and their partners before, during and after childbirth.
For example, a doula might:
- Provide information about the procedures performed and actions taken during and after labor (postpartum)
- Help explain your birth plan and advocate for your emotional and physical needs to hospital staff
- Offer physical comfort through activities like massage and focused breathing
- Guide and support your family and loved ones
- Help with breastfeeding
Doulas can’t provide medical advice and can’t change the clinical recommendations of a midwife or doctor, but their role is an important one. They provide continuous support and encouragement during labor and delivery and can help you have a better birthing experience.
The benefits of doula care
Studies suggest that doula care can make labor and delivery safer for pregnant people and their babies. Benefits of doula care include:
- Fewer c-sections (cesarean sections)
- Less anxiety and depression for pregnant people
- Less pain-relief medication during labor
- Shorter time in labor
- Fewer negative childbirth experiences
- Better communication between pregnant people and their health care providers
- Lower healthcare costs
In fact, compared with pregnant people who don’t use doulas, those at high risk for complications during labor and delivery under the care of a doula are:
- Two times less likely to experience a birth complication
- Four times less likely to have a low birthweight baby
- More likely to breastfeed
- More likely to feel happy about the care they received
Women of color in the United States are affected by higher rates of maternal death and severe maternal morbidity (unexpected and severe complications from labor and childbirth). There are many reasons behind this, including social, economic and environmental factors just to name a few. March of Dimes supports increased access to doula care as one tool to help improve birth outcomes and drive change.