Original research article| Volume 93, ISSUE 3, P244-248, March 2016

Women's experiences with doula support during first-trimester surgical abortion: a qualitative study



      To explore how doula support influences women's experiences with first-trimester surgical abortion.

      Study Design

      We conducted semistructured interviews with women given the option to receive doula support during first-trimester surgical abortion in a clinic that uses local anesthesia and does not routinely allow support people to be present during procedures. Dimensions explored included (a) reasons women did or did not choose doula support; (b) key aspects of the doula interaction; and (c) future directions for doula support in abortion care. Interviews were transcribed, and computer-assisted content analysis was performed; salient themes are presented.


      Thirty women were interviewed: 19 received and 11 did not receive doula support. Reasons to accept doula support included (a) wanting companionship during the procedure and (b) being concerned about the procedure. Reasons to decline doula support included (a) a sense of stoicism and desiring privacy or (b) not wanting to add emotion to this event. Women who received doula support universally reported positive experiences with the verbal and physical techniques used by doulas during the procedure, and most women who declined doula support subsequently regretted not having a doula. Many women endorsed additional roles for doulas in abortion care, including addressing informational and emotional needs before and after the procedure.


      Women receiving first-trimester surgical abortion in this setting value doula support at the time of the procedure. This intervention has the potential to be further developed to help women address pre- and postabortion informational and emotional needs.


      In a setting that does not allow family or friends to be present during the abortion procedure, women highly valued the presence of trained abortion doulas. This study speaks to the importance of providing support to women during abortion care. Developing a volunteer doula service is one approach to addressing this need, especially in clinics that otherwise do not permit support people in the procedure room or for women who do not have a support person and desire one.


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