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Rice University

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender


This study uses a mixed method approach and medicalization theory to explore the new role of professional doulas in the Netherlands through the perspectives of women who have had doula-attended births. Survey data from the Dutch doula association is first analyzed in order to quantify women’s experiences with doula care and characterize their demographic information and birth outcomes. Simulatenously, nine in-depth interviews are conducted with Dutch and non- Dutch mothers who have recently had doula-attended births. The interviews focus on experiences with doula care in the context of the Dutch maternity care system. Quantitative analysis finds women who had doulas to be older, more diverse and more educated compared to the national average. Moreover, survey results demonstrate that women are overwhelmingly satisfied with doula care. Finally, qualitative analysis of interviews identifies four elements of doula care—continuity, connection, tailoring and essentializing—to be integral to women’s reclaiming of birth as their rite of passage. In conclusion, the doula’s role in the Dutch maternity system is two-fold: to provide holistic care during birth and to act as a buffer against the tendency to medicalize birth.


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Maternal and Child Health | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Women's Studies


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