Date of Award

Winter 12-2021

Author's School

College of Arts & Sciences

Author's Program


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (A.B.)




Continuous support during labor has been demonstrated to have positive effects on maternal and infant health, as well as improving birth experiences. The benefits of doula support are particularly important for improving the maternal and infant health outcomes for Black pregnant individuals and others facing health inequities. The role of doulas in addressing the Black maternal health crisis motivates this study of the underlying mechanisms through which doulas support clients and operate within hospital settings to create positive outcomes. An online survey was used to understand the perspectives of doulas on the Black maternal health crisis and the strategies they use to support clients. Another survey was distributed to maternal care providers to assess their opinion on doula work as well as on the Black maternal health crisis. Interviews with doulas and a midwife were conducted, along with participant-observation in a doula training course. This thesis analyzes support as a radical underpinning of doula practice and distinguishes supportive practices from care. Specifically, this thesis unpacks how doulas operationalize and mediate the presence of their client (particularly BIPOC/low-income clients), providers, and themselves within hospital spaces in order to support their client. By interrogating the knowledge systems employed by doulas in different contexts, this thesis explores the importance of both alternative and biomedical knowledge systems in operationalizing doula support. Ultimately, this thesis critically engages with legislative efforts to address the Black maternal health crisis through doula work by analyzing the consequences of institutionalization on these radical underpinnings of doula practice.


Anna Jacobsen, Ph.D.