Support of the Doula in Maternal Behavioral Health

Timeslot: Thursday, October 12, 2023 - 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Session Type: Concurrent Session


Pregnancy and childbirth are known to be stressful. Research indicates that a doula can positively impact maternal and infant health outcomes and experiences. A doula is a trained professional who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to a pregnant person before, during, and after childbirth. Their role is to assist the mother in achieving a positive and safe birth experience.

Doulas are often trusted members of the community they serve and are well-suited to address issues related to discrimination and other drivers of disparities by bridging language and cultural gaps, and providing more culturally appropriate support to women at higher risk of poor outcomes throughout pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period. In addition to helping with physical comfort measures, doulas can also play a role in supporting a mother's mental health during pregnancy and birth. Several states are providing coverage for doula services through their Medicaid programs.

Often, behavioral health needs are not properly identified and/or screened especially during the postpartum period which is a period of high mental and physical demands due to a recent delivery. Doulas can provide non-judgmental emotional support, active listening, and guidance on relaxation and coping techniques. They can also help to create a birth plan that takes into account the mother's mental health needs. By providing continuous support throughout labor and delivery, doulas can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can improve the overall birth experience.

The role of a doula related to behavioral health during pregnancy and birth is to provide emotional and mental support to the mother, help her cope with stress and anxiety, and advocate for her preferences and needs during the birth experience. Additionally, studies have found that mothers who receive doula support during labor are less likely to experience postpartum depression and have more positive feelings about their birth experience.

Learning Outcomes

  • Define the role of a doula during the pregnancy and birthing experience

  • Describe the impact of the doula as a member of the community on maternal health outcomes 

  • Understand how presence of the doula assists in addressing social determinants of health (SDOH) in underserved communities