What is a Doula?
“And for so many women, let’s note doulas are literally a lifeline.”
– Vice President Harris | White House Maternal Health Day of Action | Dec 7, 2021
What is a Doula?
Birth Doulas prepare families for childbirth with evidence-based information and attend to the physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs of people in labor.
Postpartum Doulas provide culturally appropriate emotional support to assist parents with the transitions of the postpartum period and caring for a new baby.
In addition, doulas follow up with guidance and referrals to community resources for self care, lactation, and other issues pertaining to healthy parenting.
Why Are Doulas Essential?
Doulas provide essential non-medical perinatal support and have the potential to reduce disparities in birth outcomes. Professional organizations including ACOG, AWHONN, Association of Black Cardiologists, March of Dimes, and Postpartum Support International support the inclusion of doulas as part of the care team to promote improved and more equitable health outcomes for all birthing individuals.
Doula support can reduce the need for certain medical interventions and cesarean sections, leading to cost savings. Insurance coverage for doula care should be an industry standard, as out-of-pocket costs for doula care are not affordable for all families.
How Can You Help Make Doula Care More Accesible?
Hospitals can recognize doulas as allied health care professionals. Research shows doula support improves birth outcomes, increases patient satisfaction, and reduces disparities in health outcomes.
ICEA collaborates with hospitals to create in-house doula programs. If this is something your hospital desires, we can help!
Policymakers can recognize doulas as a critical component in maternal health programs for all pregnant, birthing, and postpartum individuals.
Include doula services in legislation to support a reduction in maternal mortality, improved perinatal mental health, and healthy birth initiatives.
Insurance companies can recognize doulas as a key factor in reducing costs, and provide reimbursement for doula services throughout the perinatal period for all birthing individuals.
Research shows a reduction in the use of medication, interventions, and cesareans for patients who have doula support.
Institutes of Higher Education
Institutes of higher education can collaborate with ICEA to incorporate doula skills into training programs and provide opportunities for certification.
At minimum, health profession programs should teach about the doula’s unique role in supporting the psychosocial, physical, and emotional care of the patient.
ICEA Endorses the Concept of the Circle of Care
ACOG committee opinion No 766 summary: Approaches to limit intervention during labor and birth. (2019). Obstetrics & Gynecology, 133(2), 406-408.
Johnson Searcy, J. & Castaneda, A. N. (2021). On the outside looking in: A global doula response to COVID-19. Frontiers in Sociology, 6. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsoc.2021.613978/full
Kozhimannil, K. B., Alarid-Escudero, F., Vogelsang, C. A., Blauer-Peterson, C., Hardeman, R. R., & Howel, E. A. (2016). Modeling the costeffectiveness of doula care associated with reductions in preterm birth and cesarean delivery. Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, 43(1), 20-27.
Kozhimannil, K. B., Hardeman, R. R., Attanasio, L. B., Blauer-Peterson, C., & O’Brien, M (2013). Doula care, birth outcomes, and costs among Medicaid beneficiaries. American Journal of Public Health, 103(4), e113-e121. 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301201
Kozhimannil, K. B., Vogelsang, C. A., Hardeman, R. R., & Prasad, S. (2016). Disrupting the pathways of social determinants of health: Doula support during pregnancy and childbirth. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine: JABFM, 29(3), 308-317. 10.3122/jabfm.2016.03.150300
Download the PDFs
by Melissa Maldonado- Lennox
This letter of support details how we all can support doulas on multifaceted levels throughout the world. Doula services are unparalleled in supporting, advocating for, and uplifting of birthing families.
We at ICEA are dedicated to bolstering the continued support to Doulas around the world and mobilize our members to share this letter on the various platforms that exist that can lead to continued doula education, compensation, and utilization advocacy.
The downloadable PDF version is available for all to access effortlessly and send to their local/regional hospitals, universities, legislators, and insurance institutions to gather support and cultivate a campaign for Doula promotion.