Pregnancy and childbirth are transformative experiences that can be both joyous and challenging. Unfortunately, not all families have equal access to quality care during this critical time. In the United States, maternal and infant health outcomes vary widely by race and socioeconomic status, with Black and Indigenous families, as well as those living in poverty, experiencing higher rates of maternal mortality, preterm birth, and infant mortality than their White and affluent counterparts.
The reasons for these disparities are complex and multifaceted, but one promising solution is the use of doula care. Doula care involves continuous emotional, physical, and informational support provided by a trained professional before, during, and after childbirth. Doulas do not provide medical care, but rather work alongside doctors and midwives to ensure that families have the resources and support they need to have a safe and positive birth experience.
Here are some of the ways that doula care can help address health disparities in underserved communities:
Improving Birth Outcomes
Multiple studies have shown that doula care can lead to better birth outcomes, including lower rates of preterm birth, cesarean section, and perinatal mortality. For example, a study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health found that women who received doula care were 39% less likely to have a cesarean section and 15% more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth than those who did not receive doula care.
Reducing the Likelihood of Interventions
In addition to reducing the likelihood of cesarean section, doula care can also help families avoid other interventions such as epidurals, forceps, and vacuum extraction. These interventions can be necessary in some cases, but they also come with risks and can lead to longer recovery times. By providing continuous support and helping families cope with pain and anxiety, doulas can reduce the need for interventions and promote a more positive birth experience.
Increasing Access to Prenatal and Postpartum Care
Doulas can also help families navigate the complex healthcare system and access the resources they need to have a healthy pregnancy and postpartum period. For example, doulas can provide education about nutrition, exercise, and breastfeeding, as well as help families connect with other healthcare providers and community resources. By providing personalized, culturally responsive care, doulas can help families feel more empowered and supported throughout their pregnancy and beyond.
Challenges in Accessing Doula Care
Despite the many benefits of doula care, access to this type of support is often limited in underserved communities. This is due in part to systemic barriers such as lack of insurance coverage, limited availability of affordable doula services, and a shortage of doulas who are trained to work with diverse populations. In addition, many families are not aware of the benefits of doula care or may feel skeptical about working with a doula due to cultural or language barriers.
If you are interested in working with a doula but are unsure where to start, take a look through our website to find out more and then head to our Self Referral Form where you can set up an appointment to see if you’re eligible for our FREE doula services.