The doula: an essential ingredient of childbirth rediscovered

Acta Paediatr. 1997 Oct;86(10):1034-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1997.tb14800.x.


Eleven randomized control trials examined whether additional support by a trained lay person (called a doula), student midwife or midwife, who provides continuous support consisting of praise, encouragement, reassurance, comfort measures, physical contact and explanations about progress during labor, will affect obstetrical and neonatal outcomes. The women were healthy primigravidas at term. Meta-analysis of these studies showed a reduction in the duration of labor, the use of medications for pain relief, operative vaginal delivery, and in many studies a reduction in caesarian deliveries. At 6 weeks after delivery in one study a greater proportion of doula-supported women were breastfeeding, reported greater self-esteem, less depression, a higher regard for their babies and their ability to care for them compared to the control mothers. Observations during labor showed that fathers remained farther away from mothers than doulas, talked and touched less. When the doula was present with the couple during labor the father offered more personal support. The father-to-be' s presence during labor and delivery is important to the mother and father, but it is the presence of the doula that results in significant benefits in outcome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • Midwifery
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic