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Doulas and Their Potential Impact on the Maternal Health Crisis

Updated: May 6

Author: Michela Crowley

23 March 2021


What is a Doula?

Doulas provide support through major life transitions, most notably childbirth and the postpartum period. Doulas go through training to learn how to support folks through pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, abortion, and even death.


A Birth Doula is essentially a birth coach hired by a birthing person (and partner) to assist them through pregnancy, continuously throughout labor and delivery, and during the immediate postpartum period. Doulas are not medical providers.

Birth doulas provide condensed childbirth and lactation education prenatally; physical and emotional support during labor and childbirth; attuned physical and emotional support in the immediate postpartum period; as well as advocacy at every step of the way. A doula is a member of your team and they work with you to help you feel agency and empowerment before during and after your birth.


Studies have shown that having a doula present throughout your birth can have an enormous impact on birth outcomes.

Participants who had a doula present throughout their birth showed:

  • 39% decrease in the risk of Cesarean

  • 15% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth

  • 10% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief

  • Shorter labors by 41 minutes on average

  • 38% decrease in the baby’s risk of a low five-minute Apgar score

  • 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28681500/)

The current state of maternal health in the United States is bleak. Despite spending more money on healthcare than any other country in the world, we rank 59th in the world for maternal mortality, and we are the first generation to be more likely to die in childbirth than a previous generation in US history. The CDC has concluded that 6 out of every 10 childbirth-related deaths are preventable. 50% of all pregnancy-related deaths occur postpartum, within the 42 days after childbirth (www.cdc.gov).