Doulas Saving lives
Doula care improves health outcomes and leads to more satisfying birthing experiences Studies on the effectiveness of doula care conclusively demonstrate that women who a doula supports during labor and childbirth are less likely to require a cesarean birth or use pain medication and more likely to give birth spontaneously, have shorter labor, and feel satisfied with their birthing experience. By reducing the need for medical interventions such as cesarean births, doulas help mitigate the potentially severe complications associated with risky interventions. For example, complications such as death, cardiac arrest, blood clots, and infections are three times more common following a cesarean birth. Babies born via cesarean delivery are also more likely to experience health problems, including asthma, Crohn’s disease, and allergies.
Community-based doulas are well-suited to reduce racial disparities.
Black women in the United States are three times more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth than white women. Notably, the deep racial disparities in maternal health outcomes persist across income and education levels, indicating that racism in healthcare is a driving force of inequalities. A growing body of research shows that stress related to daily exposure to racism detrimentally impacts birth outcomes. Moreover, communities of color have consistently reported mistreatment and dismissive behaviors from perinatal healthcare providers.
Community-based doulas are particularly well suited to improve racial disparities in health outcomes by ensuring that pregnant people who face the most significant risk of discrimination and mistreatment in the medical system receive the additional support they require. Community-based doulas can intimately understand their clients’ needs and effectively build trusting relationships as members of the communities they serve. Research demonstrates that a strong doula/client relationship grounded in trust and shared experience increases a pregnant person’s engagement in care, agency in decision-making, and overall improved health outcomes.
Doula care reduces overall perinatal spending.
Rigorous studies show that doula care results in substantial cost savings by reducing the need for medical interventions, including cesareans, instrument-assisted births, and pain medication. Considering that cesarean births cost 50 percent more than vaginal delivery, and about one-third of all births in the U.S. occur via cesarean, the potential cost savings is dramatic.
In addition to cesarean births, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) admissions drive high healthcare costs. The Institute of Medicine estimates that the annual healthcare cost in the United States associated with preterm delivery is $26.2 billion, or $51,600 per infant. One study found that when looking at the beneficial impact of doulas on cesarean and preterm birth rates among Medicaid beneficiaries regionally, doula care was associated with a savings of $58.4 million and 3,288 fewer preterm births annually.
In another study assessing the cost-effectiveness of doula care among a theoretical cohort of 1.8 million women, Oregon researchers determined that doula care saved 91 million dollars and led to 219,530 fewer cesarean births, 51 fewer maternal deaths, 382 fewer uterine ruptures, and 100 fewer hysterectomies.
Doulas also have the potential to reduce spending, as research shows that doula care increases the initiation and duration of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding reduces a parent’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Breastfed babies have lower rates of asthma, type 1 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. The CDC estimates that the health concerns associated with low breastfeeding rates add over $3 billion to U.S. healthcare costs annually.