Doulas provide non-medical support to pregnant people and their families before, during and after childbirth. Their support can help families handle the physical, emotional and practical issues that surround childbirth.
Studies have found doula support leads to better labor and birthing experiences, as well as better birth outcomes. People giving birth with support from a doula are less likely to:
They are also more likely to:
Doula support is a promising way to reduce racial inequities in birth outcomes. Currently, babies born to Black and Puerto Rican mothers in NYC are three times more likely to die in their first year of life than babies born to non-Hispanic White mothers. Further, non-Hispanic Black women are eight times more likely than non-Hispanic White women to die from pregnancy-related causes.
These doulas meet with you before and after childbirth to help prepare you for birth, breastfeeding and parenting.
During labor and birth, birth doulas can help you stay comfortable by providing guidance on breathing and relaxation. Immediately after birth, they can show you how to maintain skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed your baby.
Birth doulas can also help you with hospital policies and encourage respectful communication between families and hospital staff.
These doulas begin their work with families in the first few months after childbirth. They can provide evidence-based information, support parent-infant bonding and help with cooking and other household duties. This support gives you the time you need to rest and focus on your baby.
A postpartum doula can also help you understand what you can expect from your baby and provide infant-soothing and coping skills.
You can get free or low-cost support by using a doula who is a member of your community. Community-based doulas are trained to focus on the needs of specific communities that historically have had worse birth outcomes. They often share the same background, culture and language as their clients.
Community-based doula programs conduct home visits and offer a wider array of services and referrals for people who need more support. The relationship that develops during home visits can be particularly helpful for clients looking to expand their social support network.
These doulas are trained to address all the needs of their clients, including referrals to food pantries, housing programs and sources for free diapers.
The NYC Department of Health produces an annual report describing the state of doula care in the city. The report reviews challenges for patients in getting doula support and possible solutions to expand access.