Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This study asks whether postpartum doulas enhance maternal empathy and maternal self-confidence in primiparous (first time) mothers in the postpartum phase and whether this is true across a socioeconomically diverse sample of women. A postpartum doula provides support to new mothers and their families in the first weeks postpartum. While quite a lot of research has been done on labor support doulas, less is known about the impact of the postpartum doula. No studies were found on whether they enhance maternal self-confidence and empathy. Because there are so few studies on postpartum doulas, an exploratory, qualitative method was used. In order to access the experience of a socioeconomically diverse group of women, the sample consisted of 9 mothers and three postpartum doulas. It was felt that talking to doulas, as well as mothers, would guarantee a wider pool of experience socioeconomically. All participants were interviewed in person for about an hour. Major findings are that postpartum doulas do enhance maternal self-confidence and maternal empathy in first time mothers. This is true regardless of the mother's socio-economic level. In addition, mothers were found to have a need to be in-relation in the postpartum phase. Postpartum doulas provide enhancement through emotional, physical and educational support. The mother's circumstances and personality dictates how much of each kind of support is provided. Implications are that postpartum doulas are a viable in-home intervention that might have better success rates than other inhome interventions previously studied.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 124 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 102-109)