Doulas for surgical management of miscarriage and abortion: a randomized controlled trial

Susan F. Wilson, Elizabeth P. Gurney, Mary D. Sammel, Courtney A. Schreiber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background Women undergoing office-based surgical management of a failed or undesired pregnancy often report fear of pain and anxiety pertaining to the procedure. Doulas are trained to specifically address women's physical and emotional needs in obstetric care, and recently have extended their practice to support women through all pregnancy outcomes. Objective We sought to evaluate the impact of doulas on patients’ physical and emotional responses to surgical management of a first-trimester failed or undesired pregnancy under local anesthesia. Study Design In this nonblinded, randomized trial, women received doula support or routine care during office uterine aspiration for failed or unwanted pregnancies in the first trimester. The primary outcome was pain measured on a 100-mm visual analog scale. Secondary outcomes included satisfaction, emotional state, sense of personal empowerment, and ability to cope immediately and 1 month after the procedure, as well as medical assistants’ assessment of the doula's utility. A sample size of 35 per group (N = 70) was planned to detect a 20% difference in pain score. Results From April 2014 through January 2015, 129 women were screened and 70 were randomized. The 2 study groups were similar on all baseline characteristics. The primary outcome was not different between the doula and control groups (pain score 70.7 ± 24.5 mm vs 59.7 ± 32.5 mm, P =.11, respectively), even after controlling for procedure indication (P =.20). While 97% of women who received doula support reported this helped with their experience, there was no statistically significant difference in satisfaction, emotional response, sense of empowerment, or perceived ability to cope between the 2 groups of women immediately following or 1 month after the procedure. Of all study participants, 72% reported that it was important to have someone with them during the procedure, but that the support person did not have to be a doula. Conclusion Doula support during office uterine aspiration for failed or undesired pregnancies is well received and desired by women undergoing this procedure despite no significant effect on physical comfort or emotional responses related to the procedure. This may suggest an unmet psychosocial need for procedure-related support among such women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44.e1-44.e6
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • abortion
  • abortion doula
  • doula
  • lay support person
  • miscarriage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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