Doula ripples

February 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

“Continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labour and birth” -(Hodnett and colleagues 2011)

Jennifer just asked this question on my Birth Faith facebook page wall: “My friend’s OB told her that hiring a doula was ‘dangerous.’ What would you tell her?”

Good grief.

I’ve shared in a previous blogpost (Why hire a doula?) what a doula’s presence can do for a woman’s birth experience using my own experience and stats from scientific research. Let me reiterate that research quickly.

Gathering and analyzing the results of 15 studies, a team of researchers found that, compared to women laboring without a doula, women who labored with a doula were:

• 26% less likely to have a cesarean section
• 41% less likely to have a vacuum extractor or forceps delivery
• 28% less likely to use pain medication or epidurals
• 33% less likely to rate their birth experience negatively
(Hodnett E, Gates S, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003. Issue 3. See DONA).

But did you know that the benefits of having a doula’s assistance don’t end at birth? There are significant ripples that can impact a woman, her baby, and her relationship with her baby’s father. Look at these stats. (I originally shared these here.) The second percentage reflects the doula difference…

Infant Health Problems at Six Weeks

Vomiting- 28% vs. 4%
Colds or runny nose- 69% vs. 39%
Cough- 64% vs. 39%
Poor appetite- 25% vs. 0%
Diarrhea- 33% vs. 19%

Satisfaction with Partner

Since baby was born- 49% vs. 85%
Relationship better right after birth- 30% vs. 71%

Psychological Outcome at Six Weeks

Anxiety- 40% vs. 28%
Self-esteem- 59% vs. 74%
Depression- 23% vs. 10%


That’s the doula difference, my friends. Not only will doulas greatly improve many birth outcomes, their presence and assistance can have amazing long-term effects as well.

The more I learn, the more clear and plain it becomes that what happens at birth matters… a lot. Birth experiences can have enormous ripple effects for good or bad. Birth matters. And having informed, supportive, and loving people around you during your birth can have profoundly beneficial immediate and long-term effects.

[Stats quoted in The Doula Book, by Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus. Study references: Wolman, W. L. Social support during childbirth, psychological and physiological outcomes. Master’s thesis, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 1991, and Wolman, W. L., Chalmers, B., Hofmeyr, G. J. et al. Post-partum depression and companionship in the clinical birth environment: A randomized controlled study. Am J Obstet and Gynec, 168: 1380-1393, 1993.]