Continuous Doula Labor Support: effect on cesarean delivery rates -
Ref: Mc Grath, Kennell 2008
BACKGROUND: Previous randomized controlled studies in several different settings demonstrated the positive effects of continuous labor support by an experienced woman (doula) for low-income women laboring without the support of family members. The objective of this randomized controlled trial was to examine the perinatal effects of doula support for nulliparous middle-income women accompanied by a male partner during labor and delivery.
METHODS: Nulliparous women in the third trimester of an uncomplicated pregnancy were enrolled at childbirth education classes in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1988 through 1992. Of the 686 prenatal women recruited, 420 met enrollment criteria and completed the intervention. For the 224 women randomly assigned to the experimental group, a doula arrived shortly after hospital admission and remained throughout labor and delivery. Doula support included close physical proximity, touch, and eye contact with the laboring woman, and teaching, reassurance, and encouragement of the woman and her male partner.
RESULTS: The doula group had a significantly lower cesarean delivery rate than the control group (13.4% vs 25.0%, p = 0.002), and fewer women in the doula group received epidural analgesia (64.7% vs 76.0%, p = 0.008). Among women with induced labor, those supported by a doula had a lower rate of cesarean delivery than those in the control group (12.5% vs 58.8%, p = 0.007). On questionnaires the day after delivery, 100 percent of couples with doula support rated their experience with the doula positively.
CONCLUSIONS: For middle-class women laboring with the support of their male partner, the continuous presence of a doula during labor significantly decreased the likelihood of cesarean delivery and reduced the need for epidural analgesia. Women and their male partners were unequivocal in their positive opinions about laboring with the support of a doula.
The Obstetrical and Postpartum Benefits of Continuous Support During Childbirth
Ref: Scott KD, Klaus PH, Klaus MH. J Womens Health Gend Based Med 1999 Dec;8(10):1257-64 Division of Public Health, County of Sonoma Department of Health Services, Santa Rosa, California 95404, USA
BACKGROUND: The purpose of this article is to review the evidence regarding the effectiveness of continuous support provided by a trained laywoman (doula) during childbirth on obstetrical and postpartum outcomes.
METHODS: Twelve individual randomized trials have compared obstetrical and postpartum outcomes between doula-supported women and women who did not receive doula support during childbirth.Three meta-analyses, which used different approaches, have been performed on the results of the clinical trials.
RESULTS: Emotional and physical support significantly shortens labor and decreases the need for cesarean deliveries, forceps and vacuum extraction, oxytocin augmentation, and analgesia. Doula-supported mothers also rate childbirth as less difficult and painful than do women not supported by a doula. Labor support by fathers does not appear to produce similar obstetrical benefits. Eight of the 12 trials report early or late psychosocial benefits of doula support. Early benefits include reductions in state anxiety scores, positive feelings about the birth experience, and increased rates of breastfeeding initiation. Later postpartum benefits include decreased symptoms of depression, improved self-esteem, exclusive breastfeeding, and increased sensitivity of the mother to her child's needs.
OUTCOME: The results of these 12 trials strongly suggest that doula support is an essential component of childbirth. A thorough reorganization of current birth practices is in order to ensure that every woman has access to continuous emotional and physical support during labor.