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What is the evidence for doulas?

Posted on June 26, 2012


© 2012 by Rebecca L. Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN


The results? Overall, women who received continuous support were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have epidurals, any pain medication, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and Cesarean births. In addition, their labors were shorter by about 1 hour and their babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth. 




The researchers also looked to see if the type of support made a difference. ... For 4 of these 6 outcomes the best results occurred when woman had continuous labor support from a doula– someone who was NOT a staff member at the hospital and who was NOT part of the woman’s social network. When continuous labor support was provided by a doula, there was a 40% decrease in the use of Pitocin, a 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth, a 28% decrease in the risk of C-section, and 34% decrease in dissatisfaction with the birth experience. These outcomes were better than all the other types of continuous support that were studied.




1.      Caton, D., M. P. Corry, et al. (2002). “The nature and management of labor pain: executive summary.” Am J Obstet Gynecol 186(5 Suppl Nature): S1-15.

2.     Hodnett, E. D. (2002). “Pain and women’s satisfaction with the experience of childbirth: a systematic review.” Am J Obstet Gynecol 186(5 Suppl Nature): S160-172.

3.      Hodnett, E. D., S. Gates, et al. (2011). “Continuous support for women during childbirth. “Cochrane database of systematic reviews (2): CD003766.

4.     Hofmeyr, G. J., V. C. Nikodem, et al. (1991). “Companionship to modify the clinical birth environment: effects on progress and perceptions of labour, and breastfeeding.” British journal of obstetrics and gynaecology 98(8): 756-764.

Edited by DoulaGinny - 9/5/12 at 8:33pm