It surprises some people to hear that doulas are hired and are beneficial for someone having a cesarean birth. Many people still have the idea that doulas are only for natural births or at least for women attempting a vaginal birth. Even when I began my career as a doula I felt my role was different for cesarean births and would offer more postpartum help or time if the parents chose it. Now I realize there are several benefits to hiring a doula for scheduled cesareans or having your doula attends your cesarean if the plans change well into your pregnancy. All births deserve support. Here are some reasons for hiring a doula for your cesarean.
- If you are diagnosed with a condition requiring a cesarean you may have questions about the procedure and recovery. A doula can help you write up a birth plan that still fits in line with some of your philosophies regarding birth and newborn procedures. Immediate skin to skin, or if that isn’t possible at your hospital, showing your partner how to do it until you can hold baby. Doulas know what type of clothing is best worn by the partner. A doula can help you with informed choices about pain management, delaying newborn baths, and more to make your experience a better one. She can even make suggestions of how to set up your home for an easier recovery.
- If it’s a scheduled cesarean and your hospital only has one or two operating rooms you may find that emergencies trump your scheduled surgery time. This can mean hours of nervous waiting for you and your partner. Having a doula there to keep you company, calm, answer questions, pass the time and give you a foot rub is very beneficial! While you will not be allowed to eat before surgery, it’s always a prudent idea to have your partner calm and well fed and having a doula will give your partner the opportunity to slip down to the hospital cafe or coffee shop without leaving you on your own.
- Select hospitals will allow your doula to accompany you into the operating room. This, again, affords you your own personal support. Your partner will be sitting by your head to keep you calm and watch the baby be born while a doula can answer questions, help you breathe to remain calm, take photographs if desired. Once your baby is born your partner will be able to accompany baby to the warmer for a quick check and be with your baby, followed by them being able to initiate skin to skin contact. While that is happening your doula will sit close to you and tell you what a great job you are doing, explain what is going on, describe your baby to you.
- When you are taken back to the operating room it is almost universal that you will go without your partner. You will have the medical staff to place your epidural or spinal, get you comfortably in position, drape you, etc. This leaves your partner in a chair in the hallway or back in the room and usually causes quite a bit of stress. Your doula will be able to keep your partner comfortable and reassured during those moments. I think I never calmly chatter as much as I do when I am holding space with a waiting partner to go into the O.R. Even if your hospital does not allow a third person (your doula) into the birth itself she can almost always keep your partner company during those stressful moments.
- Whether your doula accompanies you for the birth or not, she will be waiting for you in your room or the recovery area. She can help you initiate breastfeeding or skin to skin contact. She can bring you and your partner a drink when the all clear is given for fluids. She can rub your tense shoulders, or listen to you describe and process the experience. She can help normalize the experience and be a sounding board immediately and in the weeks and days to come. Occasionally some of the medications that are used can give you a woozy sort of vague memory about the happenings of the birth and having someone there to help you piece it together is very helpful. Don’t forget she can take the first photographs of your new little family, too. With most recovery after cesarean you will be laying reclined for at least a period of time and your doula can help position the baby for skin to skin and breastfeeding.
- Should there be a medical reason for the baby to be taken to the NICU, your doula can remain with you while your partner goes to the NICU. Many women who did not have a doula report that if this was the scenario that they were torn over having their partner go with the baby or remain with them. Having your own support person makes sure you everyone is supported.
- After you are comfortable and situated in your postpartum room, your doula can get you a meal, allow your partner to make some phone calls, etc. Then she will be available in person or by phone to answer any questions and make suggestions for situations that arise. In my practice I try very hard to come visit in the next day or so to see how everyone is doing and to help with breastfeeding or answer questions, as well as to visit soon once the family is home.
- Some doulas offer additional postpartum services or can put you in touch with a postpartum doula, mother’s helper, or lactation consultants. Rest is important after any birth but particularly one involving surgery.
- Once you are home you will likely not see your OB for weeks. While a doula does not provide medical care she can be there in person or by phone to walk you through all the little questions that come up and offer advice on when to call your provider.She may help you get in touch with special therapists if there are any complications from the surgery. Your doula will know if there are pelvic floor specialists in your area, for instance. She will know if there is a local place to purchase a cesarean support band/brace, or how to ask your hospital for one.
- Most importantly, I think, you will feel calm and supported by hiring someone specifically for you and your partner. When your doula has her postpartum visit with you she will be a safe place to share your feelings, concerns, joys, disappointments and more. Prenatally she can be the one you turn to when anxiety arises or to help you talk through any disappointments. There are true medical reasons to have a cesarean and she can be the non-judgmental person to assure you what a great mom you are and will be no matter how you give birth!
Obviously some cesarean births are not planned and while doulas have been proven by large studies to help reduce unnecessary cesareans, we know that one third of women in the U.S. are giving birth by cesarean. Cesarean mothers and families deserve as much support as those having vaginal and possibly unmedicated births. Hiring a doula for any type of birth has proven benefits, and it may be that your doula will be able to recommend certain things to try to avoid a cesarean — such as doctors and therapists who will try to get a breech baby head down. Whatever the outcome, however, your doula will be there to support you.
All Rights Reserved, Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula