Doulas: A Support Option for JCADA Clients During Pregnancy

October 17th, 2016

By Lei Wu, JCADA Clinical Intern 

Cathy, a first-time mom, told her therapist that she “began to feel really nervous” about things that might happen in childbirth. She was recently separated from her abusive partner and had a lot of anxiety about the final month of her pregnancy. A few weeks later, at her first session after the birth of her son, Cathy’s therapist was surprised at the change in her confidence and enthusiasm. With the help of a professional doula, Cathy nerves were alleviated before and after delivery. The doula, Laura, visited her at her home a few times before the labor. She met Cathy at the hospital for her delivery and stayed with her for two hours postpartum. Laura taught Cathy to have the baby skin-to-skin on her chest right after birth and let the baby self-attach to her breast. Cathy noted that “[She] could never have gone through that labor without her.”1

A doula is a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical and emotional support to a mother and/or her partner.2 In many countries, it is traditional for a female companion to remain with a woman throughout labor. With the development of the natural childbirth movement, professional doulas have been increasingly appreciated as members of the labor and delivery team in the hospital setting.

The basis of doula care is social support through offering information, tangible physical assistance and emotional support to women and/or their partners. Researchers found remarkable positive perinatal effects for women, including a reduction in cesarean deliveries by 50%, use of forceps by 40% and requests for epidural analgesia by 60%, and a 25% decrease in labor length.3 A doula’s support increases a mother’s confidence in her parenting skills, as well her ability to birth a baby. It also relieves anxiety and tension about the labor.4 In addition, research reveals that doula support results in more affectionate mother-infant contact after delivery and positively impacts maternal-infant bonding and attachment,5 both of which increase positive outcomes for infant and child development.

It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will be abused during pregnancy, but only 4 to 8 percent of pregnant women have reported suffering abuse.6 Though pregnancy is a cause for excitement and elation, it also causes stress in relationships and triggers domestic abuse. Studies have shown that domestic abuse during pregnancy and afterbirth have negative effects on the mother, fetus and newborn, giving rise to maternal mortality and morbidity, miscarriage, low birth weight, fetal injury and other risks.7 

At JCADA, clinicians see clients throughout all life stages, including pregnancy. These clients often lack the resources other mothers have, despite needing extra assistance, as they are either without a partner or coping with an abusive partner. It is our mission to support victims of domestic abuse to become empowered and obtain safe living environments. A client who is pregnant has an extra need for experienced support and would greatly benefit from working with a doula. 

As a part of our holistic approach to serving our clients, JCADA hopes to offer our pregnant clients referrals for doulas in the Greater Washington area. If you have any information on doulas willing to charge a reduced rate for women experiencing abuse, please contact


1 “Benefits of a doula present at the birth of a child." American Academy of Pediatrics.

2 Meyer, Bruce A., Arnold, Jane A., and Pascali-Bonaro, Debra. "Social support by doulas during labor and the early postpartum period." Hospital Physician. September 2001.

3 “Benefits of a doula present at the birth of a child."

4 "FOCAL POINT ON LABOR SUPPORT: Attachment and Bonding; The Doula's Role." International Journal of Childbirth Education. December 1998.

5 Ibid. 

6 Drouin, Rachelle. "Domestic Violence in Pregnancy." Women's Web. 

7 Ibid.

Posted by JCADA | Topic: Clinical

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