Maybe you are on the fence about when to get an epidural during your labor but have definitely added it to your birth preferences list, or maybe you know 100 percent that you will be asking to receive one as soon as you are admitted to the hospital, so you may be wondering why in the world you would need a doula. They are for all of those people planning natural births, right? Nope!
Here are ways a doula can help with your birth even if you plan on receiving an epidural.
Support - While a doula can provide physical comfort measures as a way to support you during birth, they also provide emotional and informational support that can be the key to feeling empowered in all of your birth choices. A doula will spend time prenatally getting to know you (and your partner if applicable) and what your desires are for your birth. They can help answer questions you may have and help you make decisions as your labor unfolds, even with an epidural. They can also support with body feeding after baby is born if that is your goal. A birth doula will also provide you with a postpartum check in to talk about the birth with you, see how everything is going once you are home, give referrals for resources, and continue to be a source of support even after your baby has arrived.
Keeping You Company - After an epidural is placed many partners take this time to rest before the pushing stage begins. This is a great idea but it can also make the birthing person feel very alone. Nursing staff cannot be in the room at all times and if a partner is sleeping some birthing people start to feel abandoned and alone. What if there is a desire for water, chapstick, music, company, a fluff of your pillows? Since you will be unable to bear weight on your legs you will not be able to get up to get items you may want or get yourself into an optimal comfortable position on your own. I've had many clients who have been able to rest much easier with an epidural when they know that I am there awake and willing to help them and to provide emotional support and company. You should not have to feel alone at any point during your labor.
Is This Normal? - There are still a lot of questions on childbirth that come about with an epidural. There are experiences and feelings that many people will ask, "Is this normal?" . Is this feeling normal? Are my emotions right now normal? Are my thoughts about becoming a parent normal? A doula is there to help you navigate those questions
Comfort Measures - Even if you decide early on that you plan on getting an epidural soon after arriving at the hospital, there will be a stretch of time that you will be feeling your contractions. You will want to labor at home as long as possible (especially in this time of a pandemic!) and most hospitals will only admit you once you are in active labor, which is when contractions are coming on a regular basis and you are at least 6 cm dilated. There is also the timing of the anesthesiologist to consider. There may be several other patients in front of you and there very well could be a good chunk of time you will have to labor without pain medication until your turn is up. A doula can teach you (and your partner) comfort and breathing techniques prenatally and also during labor. Being as calm and relaxed as possible is beneficial to everyone involved! A doula will also help you find many different position changes once in bed to help baby get into an optimal position which can help speed up labor and make you more comfortable. There is also the pushing stage to consider. While epidurals are great for pain management they do not take away pressure sensations, which is actually good since you will use those to help you push out your baby! A doula can assist with keeping you calm and focused during this stage of labor and suggest various pushing positions (no, you do not have to push on your back, even with an epidural!).
A doula is a vital part of helping you experience a birth that leaves you feeling empowered. We provide non-judgemental support and encourage you to birth in whatever way suits you best.