Why Should A Mom Planning an Epidural Hire a Doula?
There are many Mothers out there who say they have no desire to have a natural, med-free childbirth, and I admire their honesty! Moms who choose to have an epidural may or may not be aware of the potential risks associated with epidurals, but that’s the subject of an entirely different blog post. For the sake of this post, let’s say that a Mom has her mind made up- she’s going to the hospital as soon as her labor starts and she’d requesting an epidural. So where does a doula fit into this plan?
The role of a doula comes into play long before Mom enters the hospital. Doulas provide support before birth,usually from the day they’re hired they are there to support Mom. Prenatal visits include time for Mom and Dad to learn what to expect from labor and delivery at a hospital, how to prepare for birth, and how to recover after birth. Informational support before birth can be invaluable when a doula is able to relay her knowledge and experience to expecting parents.
Even Moms who are planning on having an epidural should consider “preparing” for labor, because not all epidurals are created equal and not all epidurals work as anticipated. A doula can help teach Mom how to sit and relax properly to avoid having a malpositioned baby. And, if for some reason Mom gets to the hospital and she can’t have an epidural (labor has progressed too quickly or the anesthesiologist is busy), a doula can help a frantic Mom get into a calm state of mind and get her through the contractions that she wasn’t planning on experiencing. There are also some cases when an epidural doesn’t fully work, or it wears off. I have personally experienced this during my first labor! Unfortunately there’s no guarantee if Mom will have a good experience with an epidural, but knowing her doula is there to help her if something should happen can be very reassuring.
If a Mom experiences a “good” epidural, a doula can still be her advocate in the hospital when a nurse or OB suggests an intervention. There are times when unanticipated things happen and Mom and Dad are caught off-guard. A doula by Mom’s side is her own personal source of information, providing her with pros and cons of each procedure, reminding her of her birth preferences, and then stepping back to allow Mom to make the decisions. After an epidural is placed, a doula can also keep Mom comfortable, reminding her to switch sides, rubbing her feet if they’re feeling tingly, and providing support to her and Dad as they continue to labor.
As nurses come in to check papers, blood pressure cuff, IVs, and monitors, a doula helps Mom retain her dignity and sense of personhood. It’s easy for staff to sort of forget about Mom- not necessarily intentionally, but because they have a million other things to think about. Doulas have one thing to think about: Mom. Making sure Mom is comfortable, content, and being heard and paid attention to. Don’t discount the need for emotional support during labor; this can be a very important for many Moms.
As labor comes to an end and the pushing phase is about to begin, epidurals may or may not be decreased so that Mom can feel sensations to push. There are times when this is a very peaceful process or a very chaotic process as Mom moves from feeling nothing to feeling everything! Again, each labor experience is unique.
After Baby is born, Dad may step aside to admire Baby, not intending to leave Mom’s side but often Mom is left without a support system during the delivery of the placenta and during her repair (if stitches are needed). A doula stays by Mom’s side this entire time, which can be very emotionally-charged or difficult, depending on how her delivery just went. I’ve had clients tell me this was one of my most important roles I played for them, a peaceful presence during their repairs, while Dad and Baby were a few feet away.
This list is by no means exhaustive! Doulas are able to take on just about any role during labor and delivery, and you may be surprised at how much a doula can help a Mom planning to labor with an epidural. If you’re planning on having an epidural, consider interviewing a doula to find out how she be a part of your birth team and help you achieve the birth you desire.