Epidurals & C-Sections: What A Doula's Support Looks Like
As per my doula birth philosophy, you now know that I support all and any kinds of births, including women who opt for pain medication or a cesarean. When I tell people about what I do, I often hear, "why would a woman who wants that want a doula?"
In my own experience, this question is most often asked out of ignorance or curiosity, and not judgment, but it deserves an answer either way. And the women who choose a medicated or surgical birth, for whatever reason - though they shouldn't have to justify themselves - are right to want to be understood in their choices, including the choice to be supported the way she wants during her labor. After conversing, I’ve found that what most people really mean to ask is this:
What does your support as a doula look like for a woman who opts for or needs pain medication or a cesarean?
And that, my friends, is a fabulous question!
Because the woman who has an epidural is, ideally, without pain and has the opportunity to rest, some people wrongly believe that she does not need support; and the same belief often follows for the woman who gives birth in the operating room. But a very important truth to remember is that physical support is only one of three ways a woman can be supported in labor; in the event that a woman is not having a drug-free or vaginal birth, I, as her doula, can still serve as a resource for information as well as attend to her emotional needs.
Unless you are planning a cesarean ahead of time (due to some high-risk factor in your pregnancy such as multiple babies, placenta previa, or active maternal herpes to name a few), you will likely still labor for some time, and need to cope physically until you can receive pain medications - and even in the event of a scheduled cesarean, the baby could still surprise you and initiate labor before the surgery! During prenatal appointments, I review and practice various comfort techniques with my clients that can help the laboring woman remain as relaxed and comfortable as possible until pain medications are made available to her. Even then, she may need physical assistance with repositioning and during the pushing phase. Breastfeeding can be a challenge regardless of how you birth, but often more so when recovering from surgery - so I’m there to help with that too!
One of my goals as your doula is to help you obtain any information you want and need before your baby is born so that you can plan ahead and avoid having to make decisions when you’re in Labor Land. We will cover whatever you want as much as possible during prenatal appointments, including your pain relief options; side effects and risks and benefits of medications; and other birth plan options for both medicated and cesarean births. If something comes up during your labor that we did not cover, or you need a reminder on anything, I am there to give you the resources and information you need to proceed in the way that is right for you, if your care provider is not available right away for you to do so.
Labor can be an exhilarating, distressing, joyous, confusing, and powerful time for a woman - sometimes all those feelings happen at the same time! Think about if you were getting ready to meet your baby in the operating room - you will most likely be incredibly excited to see him, but you may also be scared about the surgery or recovery. Or what if, after receiving your epidural, people seemed more concerned with the machines around you, or jump online, or fall asleep, and you feel invisible and lonely? Or what if you’re planning for an epidural but your labor goes so fast there’s no time to place it? Making sure you will have someone present who can help you remain calm and feel safe is an incredibly important factor in having a positive birth experience. Your partner, because he or she loves you more than anyone else in the labor room, may be panicked or nervous right alongside of you; and in the event that immediate medical attention is required, your care provider’s primary obligation is to keep you and your baby in physical safety. As your doula, I can help make sure you remain the focus and that your feelings are heard, validated, and attended to in any of these situations.
You have the right to birth your baby in the way that makes you most comfortable - you don’t need to answer to anyone else about it. You also have the right to feel supported in those choices. And that’s what I am here to do for you!
Did you have an epidural or a cesarean birth? What was your experience like - with or without a doula? Share in the comments section below!