Skip to main content

01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 1/2019

“Being the best person that they can be and the best mum”: a qualitative study of community volunteer doula support for disadvantaged mothers before and after birth in England

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth > Ausgabe 1/2019
Jenny McLeish, Maggie Redshaw
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12884-018-2170-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Disadvantaged pregnant women and new mothers are at increased risk of psychosocial stress, anxiety and depression. As well as affecting birth outcomes and child development, poor maternal emotional wellbeing can inhibit the development of parenting self-efficacy and successful adjustment to the maternal role. Social support is a protective factor against antenatal and postnatal depression, anxiety and stress, and improves mothers’ confidence in infant care. Community doula programmes have been developed to meet the social support and information needs of disadvantaged women. In these programmes trained volunteer doulas support mothers during pregnancy, at birth and for a short period postnatally.


This was a descriptive qualitative study, informed by phenomenological social psychology, exploring mothers’ and doulas’ experiences of antenatal and postnatal community doula support. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were undertaken with 13 disadvantaged mothers and 19 doulas at three community volunteer doula projects in England. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcripts were analysed using inductive thematic analysis.


The overarching theme emerging from the analysis was “Supporting the mother to succeed and flourish”. There were five subthemes: “Overcoming stress, anxiety and unhappiness”, “Becoming knowledgeable and skilful”, “Developing self-esteem and self-efficacy”, “Using services effectively”, and “Becoming locally connected”. Doulas believed that their community role was at least as important as their role at births. Their support was highly valued by vulnerable mothers and helped to improve their parenting confidence and skills.


Volunteer doula support before and after birth can have a positive impact on maternal emotional wellbeing, by reducing anxiety, unhappiness and stress, and increasing self-esteem and self-efficacy. Doulas help mothers feel more knowledgeable and skilful, support them to make effective use of maternity services, and enable them to build social ties in their community. To facilitate the best service for vulnerable mothers at the end of doula support, doula projects should consider formalising their relationship with other community organisations that can offer ongoing one-to-one or group support. They might also alleviate some of the potential distress caused by the ending of the doula relationship by increasing the flexibility of the ending, or by organising or permitting informal low level contact.
Über diesen Artikel

Weitere Artikel der Ausgabe 1/2019

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 1/2019 Zur Ausgabe

Neu im Fachgebiet Gynäkologie und Geburtshilfe

Mail Icon II Newsletter

Bestellen Sie unseren kostenlosen Newsletter Update Gynäkologie und bleiben Sie gut informiert – ganz bequem per eMail.