ScienceDaily (May 29, 2008) — During labor, the continued presence of a doula – an experienced non-medical female companion who provides continuous labor support – has significant beneficial effects for middle- and upper-class women in childbirth, even when they have their male partner or other family member with them, according to a new study in the journal Birth.

Over a 5-year period, 224 of a group of 420 pregnant women in their third trimester were randomized to have a doula accompany them during labor, and 196 women did not receive this intervention. Cesarean delivery rates decreased by 12%, the need for an epidural dropped by 11%, and the need for a cesarean after induced labor decreased by 46%.

The doulas arrived in early labor and stayed nearby until after the birth. The doulas also gave their characteristic reassurance and encouragement to the fathers attending the birth.

The authors were DONA International members Susan K. McGrath, PhD, and John H. Kennell, MD, of Case Western Reserve University. “Continuous support by a doula during labor is a risk-free, low-cost method of reducing cesarean delivery rates that should be available to all women.”

Susan K. McGrath PhD, John H. Kennell MD (2008) A Randomized Controlled Trial of Continuous Labor Support for Middle-Class Couples: Effect on Cesarean Delivery Rates
Birth 35 (2) , 92–97

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