Doulas' Perspectives about Providing Support to Incarcerated Women: A Feasibility Study

Rebecca J. Shlafer, Wendy L. Hellerstedt, Molly Secor-Turner, Erica Gerrity, Rae Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective: To document the logistical feasibility of a doula program for pregnant incarcerated women and to assess doulas' perceptions of their achievements. Design and Sample: Six doulas provided written case notes ("birth stories") about their experiences with 18 pregnant women in one Midwestern state prison. Measures: The birth stories were analyzed by two coders to identify major themes related to doulas' perceptions about providing support to incarcerated women. Analyses involved coder consensus about major themes and doula affirmation of findings. Results: All doulas reported that they met key objectives for a successful relationship with each of their clients. Key themes were their ability to empower clients, establish a trusting relationship, normalize the delivery, and support women as they were separated from their newborns. Conclusions: The intervention was logistically feasible, suggesting that doulas can adapt their practice for incarcerated women. Doulas may need specific training to prepare themselves for institutional restrictions that may conflict with the traditional roles of doula care. It may be important for doulas to understand the level of personal and professional resources they may have to expend to support incarcerated women if they are separated from their infants soon after delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-326
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Nursing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • Doulas
  • Narratives
  • Pregnancy
  • Prisoners
  • Qualitative research
  • Women's health


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