the Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes
There has been a lot of research on the benefits of doula services for birthing parents, mothers, and infants over the past several years, and the findings are extremely positive. In addition to reducing low birth weight, doulas can also increase rates of breastfeeding/bodyfeeding, reduce postpartum depression, decrease medical interventions, strengthen the bond between birthing parent and child and reduce disparities and negative outcomes for Black birthing parents in the US.
According to a study published by The Journal of Perinatal Education, doula support can lead to healthier births and improved outcomes for both birthing parents and infants!
In addition, people who hire a doula are less likely to have a cesarean birth, are happier with their birthing experience and have higher newborn Apgar scores (this is a measure of the infant’s health at birth). Increased access to doula care is routinely noted as one tool to help improve birth outcomes and reduce the higher rates of maternal morbidity and mortality among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) birthing people in the United States.
A 2017 Cochrane review of 26 trials of continuous labor support and doula care involving over 15,000 women in 17 different countries in high and middle-income settings found some improved outcomes for women and infants including: “increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labor, and decreased cesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low five-minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences with no evidence found of harms of continuous labor support.
In this article, we’re diving deep into the details of the impact doulas have on healthy birth outcomes, specifically concerning low birth weight and complications. We’ll also be discussing how doula services can positively impact other aspects of the postpartum period, such as bodyfeeding rates and perinatal mental health.
Doulas and Low Birth Weight
Low birth weight is one of the leading causes of infant mortality in the United States. It’s also a major risk factor for long-term health problems in children. Thankfully, there is evidence that doula support can help reduce the risk of low birth weight.
A study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education found that birthing people who received doula support were four times less likely to have a low birth weight baby. People with low birth weight babies are also more likely to have negative health outcomes in the postpartum period, like lower breastfeeding rates and higher rate of postpartum depression.
While low birth weight may be due to genetics and/or other uncontrollable factors, it can also be exacerbated by certain medical interventions, such as cesarean sections. Cesarean births are on the rise in the United States, and they account for more than one-third of all pediatric hospital births each year across all income levels!
Doulas and Complications
In addition to reducing the risk of low birth weight, doula support has also been shown to help reduce the risk of interventions and complications, including Cesarean sections. The study found that people who gave birth with the support of a doula were two times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or their baby. At boober, our customers who used a doula they found through us have a 32% lower c-section rate vs. the New York state average of 33.2%.
Studies conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists indicate that doula support leads to better birth outcomes, such as a reduced rate of Cesarean sections compared to birthing people who undergo delivery without this support. This is important because c-sections can contribute to the risk of maternal morbidity and mortality in initial and subsequent pregnancies.
The Benefits of Postpartum Doulas
It’s no secret that continuous support from a doula can lead to better birth outcomes, but what about postpartum support? Postpartum doulas offer a wide range of support to new parents, new mothers, and new fathers in the weeks and months following childbirth. This support can include emotional support, lactation and infant feeding assistance, and help with newborn care from bathing to swaddling, diaper changing, feeding, babywearing, tummy time, and so much more. Postpartum doulas can also provide information on community resources and local support groups. Doula support is often found to be especially beneficial for people who are recovering from a cesarean section, have a history of postpartum depression or anxiety, or are experiencing stress and fatigue. The positive effects of postpartum doula support are well documented, and it is now recognized as an important component of maternity care!
Doulas and Lactation
A postpartum doula can be an invaluable resource for lactating parents. They can teach you all about how to feed your baby safely and effectively, offer support through the early weeks and help you build a good bodyfeeding or breastfeeding relationship.
Studies have shown that nursing has many health benefits for both lactating parents and infants. If possible, it’s recommended that breastfeeding continues for at least the first six months of a baby’s life. Babies who exclusively receive breastmilk have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, and stomach bugs.
Doulas and Maternal Mental Health
According to the CDC, 1 in 8 women suffers from postpartum depression, and as many as 1 in 4 women suffer from other perinatal mental health issues. These issues can range from mild to severe and can significantly impact the birthing parent’s ability to bond with their baby and care for them. It’s worth noting that this figure was gathered before the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, so it’s known to be much higher now.
Fortunately, there is evidence that doula support can help improve maternal mental health outcomes in birthing parents or mothers. Postpartum doulas are trained to identify and support new parents who may be struggling with mental health issues. Their professional touch often helps these parents heal more quickly and improves their overall mental health.
Having a postpartum doula can reduce the risk of experiencing postpartum mental health issues and ensure both you and your baby are supported during this vulnerable time. Perinatal mental health has been such a taboo subject due to its perceived stigma – but it’s something we are done hiding away anymore! We need to break the silence and talk about it openly so that more people from mothers to birthing parents to fathers can get the help they need.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed after giving birth and haven’t yet talked to a mental health professional, consider reaching out to us to be matched to a postpartum doula or mental health therapist – who can competently and confidently support you through this time and help you find the additional resources you may need.
Doulas and Family Connections
Doulas are also great for helping families connect and build relationships with their new babies. They can provide information on baby care and offer tips on making the transition to parenthood easier. Doula sessions tend to strengthen relationships between dads/partners and the infant as well as strengthen the bond among siblings.
Siblings often feel left out when a new baby comes into the family. They may not understand why all the attention is now focused on this new little person, and they may feel like they are no longer the center of attention. A postpartum doula can help to ease these tensions and help siblings feel more included in the family. They can do this by hosting sibling playdates, providing information about the new baby, and helping to create a more supportive and welcoming environment for the whole family.
As your family grows, your doula can provide the necessary support to help you transition through all of the different life stages. Whether you’re welcoming your first baby into the family or dealing with the challenges of combining a new arrival with the teenage years, a postpartum doula is always there to help.
The postnatal period can be a challenging time for families – but with the support of a postpartum doula, you can overcome these challenges and grow closer together.
Doulas and Parent-Child Interaction
One of the most important roles of a postpartum doula is to support positive parent-infant interaction. This involves establishing and reinforcing routines, setting limits, and teaching parents how to respond to their infant’s cues.
If you feel overwhelmed and stressed after giving birth, it can be difficult to establish healthy parent-infant interactions. A postpartum doula can help you settle into a new routine and get the support you need to care for your child properly.
It has been suggested that positive interaction between parents and their infants results in lower levels of stress in young children and greater confidence in the parenting of older children!
A University of Chicago study found that mothers who received doula services endorsed more child-centered parenting values, demonstrated more positive engagement with their babies, and were more likely to respond to infant distress than parents without doula support. In addition, their infants showed fewer signs of distress during observation!
A postnatal doula supports and encourages bonding between birthing parent or mothers and their newborn (and possibly other family members), so it’s useful long after the postnatal period ends! Parents who nurture bonds early on – when they can interact intimately with their babies instead of only thinking about sleep deprivation – are more likely to enjoy their children as they grow older and experience less stress during difficult times.
Doulas and Postnatal Support
Postpartum doulas provide vital support to new parents in the weeks and months following the birth of their child. They can help make the transition to parenthood smoother and less stressful, crucial for both parents and children.
For example, they can:
- Help parents understand how new babies feed and sleep
- Help parents who are interested in learning about feeding and sleeping schedules and what that might look like as the child grows
- Provide emotional support and guidance
- Provide support during lactation in general with breastfeeding, bodyfeeding, pumping, bottlefeeding difficulties
- Assist with light baby-related housework and laundry
- Help to care for older siblings
- Offer practical advice on baby-care products, lactation, Postpartum healing and some doulas May have certifications that allow them to advise on things like postnatal exercise, nutrition support and more.
If you are looking for a postpartum support system that will be there for you and your family when you need it most, look no further than the postpartum doula!
Having a postpartum doula can be an extremely valuable asset for any family during the postnatal period. This support can be provided in the comfort of the family home, which can make it even more beneficial. A professional trained postpartum doula will work directly with you so that they will understand your needs at every stage of your journey.
In conclusion, it’s clear to see that doulas provide invaluable support to new parents and their families, and have an overwhelmingly positive impact on healthy birth outcomes!
If you are pregnant and considering doula services or are a new parent in need of support, postnatally, after your baby is here, check out boober! We have over 20 years of experience matching families to qualified maternal care providers and classes. Boober offers a fast, personalized doula matching service by our experienced caring team which suits your desired budget. We help you achieve the outcomes that matter to you by connecting you to the right providers, classes, and educational resources at the right time.
In other words, we’re here for you, before, during, and after your birth!
Photo by: 13th and Madison