Why Hire a Labor Doula
Historically, women have been supported by other women in the time before, during, and after childbirth. For many years, those working in the birth world noted significant differences in the outcomes of mothers and babies supported by labor doulas. In recent years, several studies have been published that support this idea.
Research & Statistics
In 2000, a meta-analysis of 11 clinical trials showed that having continuous labor support by a labor doula resulted in shortened labors. In addition, the need for pain medication, epidurals, Pitocin, cesarean sections, and forceps was decreased. (Scott, Berkowitz, Klaus)
In 2012, Hodnett and colleagues conducted a review of existing studies on labor support. After reviewing 21 studies that included more than 15,000 women in various settings, they found that:
“Women who received continuous labour support were more likely to give birth ’spontaneously’, i.e. give birth with neither caesarean nor vacuum nor forceps. In addition, women were less likely to use pain medications, were more likely to be satisfied, and had slightly shorter labours. Their babies were less likely to have low 5-minute Apgar Scores. No adverse effects were identified.”
When that support came from a doula, they found that there was:
A 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin*
A 28% decrease in the risk of C-section*
A 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth*
A 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
A 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
A 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience*
Doulas & Care Providers
In 2014, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine released a document called the Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean. In this document, the following statement was released. “Published data indicate that one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula. A Cochrane meta-analysis of 12 trials and more than 15,000 women demonstrated that the presence of continuous one-on-one support during labor and delivery was associated with improved patient satisfaction and a statistically significant reduction in the rate of cesarean delivery (111). Given that there are no associated measurable harms, this resource is probably underutilized.”
For more information on the evidence for doulas, check out:
K. D. Scott, G. Berkowitz, and M. Klaus, “A comparison of intermittent and continuous support during labor: a meta-analysis,” The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 180, no. 5, pp. 1054–1059, 1999.
Hodnett, E. D., S. Gates, et al. (2012). “Continuous support for women during childbirth.” Cochrane database of systematic reviews: CD003766.
Safe prevention of the primary cesarean delivery. Obstetric Care Consensus No. 1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2014;123:693–711.