Philadelphia Department of Health Doula Support Program: Early Successes and Challenges of a Program Serving Birthing People Affected by Substance Use Disorder.

Publication date: Dec 01, 2023

Maternal substance use and deaths due to overdoses are increasing nationwide. Evidence suggests that the rate of resumed substance use, and fatal and non-fatal overdose is greatest in the first year after birth, particularly around six months postpartum, compared to other parts of the perinatal period. Doula care has been linked to improvements in perinatal health and outcomes. In response to the opioid epidemic, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health developed and implemented the Doula Support Program (DSP), with a focus on one year of postpartum care for birthing people with a substance use disorder (SUD). In this paper, we describe the program and its formation and report on the early challenges and successes of the program implementation, based on information we received from program founders and managers in a group interview. Early successes of the program include partnering with local community-based programs to recruit and retain doulas, supplementing traditional doula education with perinatal SUD-specific trainings, and maximizing client referrals by collaborating with local organizations and treatment centers that serve birthing people with SUD. Client retention, however, has proven to be challenging, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The DSP continues to grow, and lessons learned will facilitate program improvements. The goal of this paper is to outline the development and launch of the DSP and to act as a model for other state and local health departments interested in providing doula care for birthing people with SUD.

Concepts Keywords
Education Doula care
Managers Local health department
Months Perinatal
Overdose Postpartum
Philadelphia Substance use disorder


Type Source Name
disease MESH Substance Use Disorder
disease VO report
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic

Original Article

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