The 2012 updated Cochrane review of research studies on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth found that women who recieved continuous support were more likely to ahve spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to havev any pain medication, epidurals, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and C-sections. Their labours were alse shorter by around 40 minutes and their babies were born in better condition.
The Hodnett et al. (2012) review pooled the results of 22 trials that included more than 15,000 women. It looked at the effects of continuous support during labour on the woman's experience of labour and the outcomes for the baby. It also considered whether the type of support women recieved made a difference, for example, midwife, doula or partner.
The study considered this question for 6 different outcomes. For 4 out of 6 of these outcomes, women and babies had the best results when the woman received continuous labour support from a doula. When continuous labour support was provided by a doula, women experienced a:
- 31% decrease in the use of Syntocinon (artificial hormone drip used to speed up labour)
- 28% decrease in the risk of caesarean section
- 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
- 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
- 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
- 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience
(Hodnett et al. 2012)
If a woman has continuous support throughout labour, she and her baby are statistically more likely to have better birth outcomes. The support provided by a doula increases these benefits compared to other forms of support e.g. midwife, partner, friend/family member.
Hodnett, E. D., S. Gates, et al. (2012). “Continuous support for women during childbirth.” Cochrane database of systematic reviews: CD003766.