Research on Doulas

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Doula Services

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Research has shown that having a doula results in: 

  • Shorter length of labor by up to 25%.  Doulas use breathing techniques, massage, and emotional support to foster relaxation, which increases the natural production of oxytocin production in the mother. Oxytocin is the hormone that facilitates the smooth progression of labor.  
  • 25-50% reduction in Cesarean sections. Study after study consistently finds that the presence of a doula cuts the rate of Cesareans significantly. One contributing factor to this finding is that doulas are trained in the use of different positions and movement during labor that facilitates optimal rotation and descent of the baby.  
  • 15-60% reduction in epidural use. Doulas reduce requests for pain medication by providing a range of natural pain management techniques. A substantial part of the doula’s training is in these techniques, including breathing, massage, counter-pressure, the use of heat and cold packs, bath and shower, visualization, relaxation exercises, etc. 
  • Increased rates of successful breastfeeding. Doulas are trained in breastfeeding support as well as the recognition of problems that merit referrals to a lactation consultant. Because they are in close touch with mothers in the days and weeks after birth and conduct an in-home postnatal visit, they are an important resource for breastfeeding support.  
  • Higher levels of satisfaction with birth experiences, regardless of whether the labor goes according to plan. Women are 34% less likely to report dissatisfaction with their birth experience when they have a doula present, regardless of how the birth unfolds.  


Campbell DA, Lake MF, Falk M, Backstrand JR. A randomized control trial of continuous support in labor by a lay doula. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing 2006;35(4):456–64.

Stein M, Kennell J, Fulcher A. Benefits of a Doula Present at the Birth of a Child. Pediatrics 2004; 114;1488-1491.

Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Review, 2012.

McGrath SK, Kennell JH. A randomized controlled trial of continuous labor support for middle-class couples: Effect on cesarean delivery rates. Birth 2008;35(2):92–7.