Benefits of diversity in doula profession in recent study

November 14, 2016

More than half of all women who gave birth in 2014 were women of color, but there is little racial and ethnic diversity among midwives and obstetricians in the United States.

A lack of diversity in the healthcare workforce has been cited as one of many contributors to the persistent disparities in health status and limited access to healthcare for underserved populations. On a broader scale, a wide range of social determinants of health, which also influence the diversity of the healthcare workforce, directly affect birth outcomes.

In 2014, as part of the Doula Access Project (a pilot research grant  documenting the challenges, opportunities, and effectiveness of Minnesota’s new law and policy extending Medicaid coverage to include doula care.), 12 women of color in Minneapolis, Minnesota were selected from a pool to receive doula training and certification. In January and February of 2015, The University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Rachel R. Hardeman, PhD, MPH and Katy B. Kozhimannil, PhD, MPA interviewed the newly trained doulas to find out what motivated them to enter the profession.

Several themes emerged from the study:

  1.     Many women of color have a strong desire to support birthing women from their communities, which motivated their entrance into the doula profession.
  2.     Doulas feel a calling to their work and report that they place value and gain satisfaction from honoring a woman’s cultural beliefs, preferences and rituals or practices during pregnancy and childbirth.
  3.     Many women of color are motivated to provide culturally centered support, often as the sole source of cultural knowledge during labor and birth.

Given the evidence linking doula support to improved birth outcomes, successful recruitment and retention of women of color as doulas may support broader efforts to reduce long-standing disparities in birth outcomes. Read the full report here.