Florida Doulas' Perspectives on Their Role in Reducing Maternal Morbidity and Health Disparities.

Publication/Presentation Date



BACKGROUND: Maternal mortality rates continue to rise in the United States. Considerable racial disparities exist, as Black women face two to three times the risks of dying from pregnancy-related complications compared with white women. Doulas have been associated with improved maternal outcomes. This study aimed to 1) investigate Florida doulas' perspectives and influence on severe maternal morbidity/mortality and related inequities, as well as 2) identify opportunities for actionable change. The social ecological model, which acknowledges how individual, interpersonal, institutional, community, and public policy factors intersect, informed our analysis.

METHODS: This qualitative study included seven online in-depth interviews and seven focus groups with doulas (N = 31) in Florida. Interview guides investigated how doulas perceive their role in the context of a) maternal morbidity and b) health disparities.

RESULTS: Doulas associated maternal morbidity and health disparities with Black pregnant people, identifying racism as a major contributor. Doulas identified their role as one that most often intersects with the individual and interpersonal levels of the social ecological model. Doulas report providing positive social surveillance and emotional support, contributing education and resources, and championing for advocacy in health care settings. Actionable steps recommended by doulas to further mitigate health disparities include the integration of implicit bias training into doula certification programs, increasing public health funding to bolster a doula workforce that can serve racial and ethnic communities, establishing doula-hospital partnerships to improve relational communication, providing tailored resources for clients featuring representative messaging, and doulas' continued engagement in positive social surveillance of their clients.

CONCLUSIONS: Doulas perceived their role as integral to mitigating maternal morbidity and health disparities, particularly in the context of supporting and advocating for birthing persons on all levels of the social ecological model. Equitable access to doulas for low-income and/or minoritized populations may be one key strategy to improve maternal health equity.




Medicine and Health Sciences




Fellows and Residents

Document Type