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Doula Birth Support for Incarcerated Pregnant Women


  • Carole Schroeder, R.N., Ph.D., is Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. Janice Bell, M.N., M.P.H., is Doctoral Candidate, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

* Carole Schroeder, 1129 N 81st Street, Seattle, WA 98103. E-mail:


Abstract  The objective of this study was to provide trained labor support (doulas) to pregnant women in jail. A multiagency intervention project provided doula birth services to pregnant women in urban jails. Program evaluation included interviews with women and written satisfaction surveys of providers and correctional officers. A convenience sample of 18 incarcerated women received doula services. A doula visited each woman in jail antepartum to review expectations for labor and birth; during hospitalization, the doula provided continuous support throughout labor and birth. Doulas visited women postpartum to review birth events. Surveys administered to providers and officers demonstrated high satisfaction with the program. Qualitative interviews with 14 women indicated unanimous support for the services and documented women's major concerns. Findings support offering doula services to all pregnant women in custody and expanding doula services to include early and comprehensive intervention coordinated by nurses.