Many people have heard about doulas, and assume they only work with women who have natural, or unmedicated, births.
For mothers planning to give birth with an epidural, a doula might not seem necessary, or even helpful.
Besides, if you have an epidural, do you need additional support or comfort measures?
A doula is a trained labour support professional. She has many skills which, in fact, can offer a great deal of support during an unmedicated birth.
If you’re not sure exactly what a doula is, be sure to read What Is A Doula? Why Pregnant Women Love Doulas!
7 Reasons To Hire A Doula If You Plan To Have An Epidural
A doula’s knowledge and skills can play a vital part in helping a woman have a positive birth experience – even with an epidural.
A doula can certainly help during a medicated birth. Here are 7 reasons to hire a doula, even if you plan to have an epidural:
#1: A Doula Can Help You Prepare For Birth
A doula will often offer prenatal visits to get to know you and the type of support you’ll find helpful.
During these visits, she can tell you about what to expect in early labour, what you might expect at the hospital, the stages of labour, and more.
She can help alleviate the fear associated with the unknown. And, perhaps most importantly, she can help you learn about your birthing options, so you can make informed decisions.
#2: A Doula Offers Continuous Labour Support – Even At Home
Some first-time parents are surprised to know that early labour often takes place at home. Barring any medical complications, most hospitals don’t admit mothers until they’re in active labour. Labour typically isn’t considered active until 4-6cms dilation.
For many women, this means pain relief isn’t offered until they have already laboured for a while. A doula can meet a client at home during early labour, and offer her support and comfort measures.
Even if you’re planning to have an epidural, a doula will make sure you find ways to cope with early labour rather than just survive it until you can have the epidural.
Once you arrive at the hospital, the hospital staff are there to help, but their primary goal is clinical. Their job is to keep you and your baby safe.
This is a big task and they also have other mothers to attend to. Nurses, midwives, and obstetricians are rarely able to provide continuous support to individual mothers.
A doula can be a constant support, from early labour until a few hours after birth.
#3: A Doula Can Help You To Relax
An epidural might offer pain relief during labour, but often mothers still have anxiety during birth.
Giving birth can be a long, exciting, scary, and emotional experience. Birth often has highs and lows, excitement and, for some, even fear.
A doula is well experienced in helping mothers and their partners find ways to relax and have a positive birth experience.
Although an epidural is a medical procedure, it doesn’t mean the birth has to feel like a medical event. Doctors and nurses will monitor for any side effects, while your doula is there to support you.
A doula can help you with relaxing breathing and visualisations. She will help to plan and arrange a relaxing atmosphere, just as you want it – perhaps dim lights, music, or comfort items. She might provide hands on comfort (massage, light touch relaxation) – or help your partner to provide it – and reassure you about the entire experience.
#4: A Doula Can Help With Positioning
Contrary to what we see on TV and in movies, a mother’s position during birth can have a huge impact on how birth unfolds.
There are many benefits to giving birth in a more upright position. After an epidural is placed, your mobility is drastically reduced. A doula can help you work safely with positioning, while you remain in bed.
A doula is trained in a range of labour situations, including helping women who have had an epidural and must remain in bed. Using things like a peanut ball, pillows, or rebozos, for example, a doula will help you into optimal positions even if you can’t be up and walking.
#5: A Doula Understands Birth Lingo
A doula offers non-medical support, and all medical concerns should be discussed with your midwife or doctor. However, sometimes birth lingo can be confusing. A doula can help you understand your provider’s answers, and what’s being discussed in the room during birth. She will also make sure you understand your birth options.
Often, parents and their doulas will discuss birth options, preferences and plans prior to labour. In the throes of labour, during admission, or during an exam, parents might understandably feel overwhelmed; the doula is there to help support them and answer questions they might have about their options and preferences.
#6: A Doula Offers Immediate Postpartum Support
Immediately after birth, your care providers are busy making sure your third stage (the expulsion of the placenta) is going well, and there are no concerns about haemorrhaging. Your partner and the nurses are often focused on how your baby is transitioning to life outside the womb.
A doula is there for you – to make sure you’re feeling emotionally supported immediately following birth.
She’s also there to help with breastfeeding initiation, and to facilitate as much skin to skin as possible. She will also be available for practical support – when you’re ready for that long-awaited piece of sushi and a glass of bubbly, perhaps.
#7: A Doula Is A Wealth Of Knowledge, Resources And Support
Many doulas provide a postpartum visit to help debrief and process mothers’ birth experiences. During these visits, mothers feel valued and supported and their concerns and worries are validated.
Most women feel a special bond with their doulas and are comfortable asking them questions or seeking support for normal postpartum adjustments. “What can I do to ease my very sore perineum?” isn’t always a question partners are equipped to answer.
If you’re experiencing the ‘baby blues’ or you’re worried about postpartum depression, a doula is a listening ear who can point you in the right direction to get the support you need.
Wondering about infant care? Postpartum healing? Breastfeeding? Even if a question is outside her scope of practice, she will be familiar with the resources available in your community to ensure you have a smooth transition into parenthood.
Interested in hiring a doula? Be sure to read 5 Things To Know Before Hiring A Doula