What is a Community Doula?
Before the term “doula” became widely used, family and community members commonly provided the physical and emotional support that today’s doulas offer during pregnancy and birth.
Doulas have gained particular attention for their role in improving maternal and infant health outcomes, as well as the experiences of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and in challenging what some see as the overmedicalization of birth in the United States. Many community members, policymakers, midwives, doulas, and other people focused on addressing the maternal health crisis are calling for expanded training of and access to community-based doulas —birth workers who are trusted members of the communities they serve and provide care responsive to the specific needs of their community, often at low or no cost.
Community-based birth workers have the unique capacity to challenge bias in the medicalized birth system and undo the exclusion of traditional, community-centered practices around pregnancy and birth.
Doula support improves maternal and infant health outcomes.
Multiple studies have found better outcomes for birthing people who have doula support, including lower rates of maternal and infant health complications; lower rates of preterm birth and low birth weight infants; lower rates of cesarean sections (C-sections), which are associated with higher rates of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity,and other medical interventions; and higher rates of breastfeeding.
In addition to improved physical health outcomes, doula support is linked to reduced rates of postpartum depression and anxiety as well as increased positive feelings about the birth experience and ability to influence one’s own pregnancy outcomes .