You may think that a doula is only useful for unmedicated or vaginal births. However, doula support is very valuable in every birth, regardless of where it takes place, or if your labor is unmedicated, medicated, or a cesarean. Often, we are asked, “How can a doula help me if I’m thinking of an epidural, or if I decide to get one?” This is a great question, and we are happy to answer it!
First, let us assure you, this is your birth story, and we are here to give you the support and tools you need to help you have the best birth possible! So, what does that look like with an epidural?
Let’s talk about some of the challenges that may be faced by the birthing person – and then how a doula can provide much needed support.
Although an epidural usually helps make you more physically comfortable, you may be left feeling emotionally disconnected from the birth and in want of continuous support. Perhaps you were hoping to have an unmedicated birth, and now you find yourself disappointed. Planned or not, you may be asked to wait for the labor to advance more. Even the time it takes for the anesthesiologist to come can seem emotionally unbearable.
How a doula helps: They can guide you through all of these and other emotional difficulties. How? They nurture you, reassure you (and your partner), provide a sense of calm to the birthing space, and help you focus your mind and inner strength to the amazing feat your body and baby are working towards. The doula will help ease your anxieties and guide you in breathing and relaxation techniques.
An epidural usually makes you more comfortable. However, you can have one side or area where you still experience discomfort. You may experience some side effects, both directly and indirectly, for which you may not feel prepared. It can be a challenge when you can’t feel the labor (seems funny to say, I know). Your doula can help with repositioning in order to to assist with the progression of labor (so it doesn’t slow down) or to change your baby’s position (to ease into the birth canal).
Once full dilation is reached and the time for pushing has come, intense pressure is usually felt, but it can be difficult to know when and how to push.
How a doula helps: They soothe and ease discomforts using a variety of methods. From massage, to cool cloths, to knowing what positions are beneficial for labor progress (that can be used with an epidural), a doula will attend to your unique needs. A doula will provide you with continuous face to face support. Once at the pushing stage, a doula continues to guide, reassure, encourage, and support you. After the birth of your baby, your doula can assist in facilitating breastfeeding (if desired), and they can assist with your transition into the golden hours.
Possible side effects of epidurals can lead to other interventions. This can mean decisions needing to be made by you or your partner. It can be hard to navigate through all that is going on in the birthing room.
How a doula helps: They can provide you with evidence-based information before the birth and during labor (if necessary) in order to assist in making a decision with which you’re comfortable. A doula does not make decisions or speak for you; however, they can help facilitate questions that will provide you with answers (in a non-emergency situation). Additionally, doulas support you in knowing your rights – while at the same time working with your birth team.
Birth is a miraculous event in your life, but there can be a lot through which to navigate. Doulas are there to support you completely! They want you to look back at your birth experience with joy and a sense of empowerment. It is truly our honor.
About the author, Marie