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Keywords:

  • Being with woman;
  • Caregivers;
  • Continuous labor support;
  • Doula;
  • Labor support;
  • Maternal outcomes

Objective:  To compare labor outcomes in women accompanied by an additional support person (doula group) with outcomes in women who did not have this additional support person (control group).

Design:  Randomized controlled trial.

Setting:  A women's ambulatory care center at a tertiary perinatal care hospital in New Jersey.

Patients/participants:  Six hundred nulliparous women carrying a singleton pregnancy who had a low-risk pregnancy at the time of enrollment and were able to identify a female friend or family member willing to act as their lay doula.

Interventions:  The doula group was taught traditional doula supportive techniques in two 2-hour sessions.

Main Outcome Measures:  Length of labor, type of delivery, type and timing of analgesia/anesthesia, and Apgar scores.

Results:  Significantly shorter length of labor in the doula group, greater cervical dilation at the time of epidural anesthesia, and higher Apgar scores at both 1 and 5 minutes. Differences did not reach statistical significance in type of analgesia/anesthesia or cesarean delivery despite a trend toward lower cesarean delivery rates in the doula group.

Conclusion:  Providing low-income pregnant women with the option to choose a female friend who has received lay doula training and will act as doula during labor, along with other family members, shortens the labor process. JOGNN, 35, 456–464; 2006. DOI: 10.1111/J.1552-6909.2006.00067.x