Doulas are for Women who Have Planned Cesareans
It can sometimes be a mental hurdle for people to get past the idea that doulas aren’t only for women who choose a “natural” or drug-free birth.
It can be even more of a mental hurdle for people to get past the idea that doula support is only for women who are planning vaginal births!
But in reality, doula support can be quite valuable for women and families who are planning a cesarean section for the upcoming birth of their child (or children). Here’s how.
A doula can help you to create a cesarean birth plan.
Yes, you can create a birth plan or birth preference list for a planned cesarean section!
And a doula can help you to determine what preferences you would like to include on your list. What’s more, she might even inform you of some options that you didn’t even know that you had!
For instance, would you like to specify that your urinary catheter to be inserted after the spinal epidural is placed?
Would you like someone to explain the surgery to you as it happens?
Would you like to have music playing during the c-section?
If your baby is healthy, would you like to be able to hold him or her while you are being moved to the recovery room (with assistance, if needed)?
Do you have any postpartum preferences, such as those related to breastfeeding or vaccines?
These items and more can all be included in a cesarean section birth plan or preference list.
(If you’d like to read more about cesarean birth plans, Morgan at Adventures in Diapering and Beyond created this example of a C-section Birth Plan for her readers. She has had four c-sections herself and has some great experiential wisdom to offer here.)
A doula can take the time to discuss your feelings about the c-section and offer any tips or advice on recovery well before the big day arrives.
Especially if this is your first cesarean section, you might have some fears or concerns about your upcoming surgery. Well before your baby is born, a doula can help you practice relaxation techniques (such as breathing exercises or visualization) that you can use during the epidural or spinal placement, throughout the surgery, and during your recovery period.
Where appropriate, a doula can even help you to devise ways to alleviate your fears or concerns in your birth preferences list. For instance, some women who become nauseous at the very thought of surgery might request that no one describe the cesarean section as it happens–or at least that any conversation between the medical staff be as least graphic as possible.
A doula can also help you to plan ahead to ensure that you to have your best recovery possible. Whether it’s demonstrating the breastfeeding positions (such as the football hold) that seem to be most comfortable to women recovering from a c-section, or recommending that you bring a breastfeeding pillow (such as a Boppy or My Brest Friend) to wrap around your abdomen even when you’re not nursing, or suggesting that you ask friends to offer to perform light housekeeping in lieu of bringing baby gifts, a doula might be able to offer you just the sorts of tips and advice that will make your initial recovery from major abdominal surgery as smooth as possible.
A doula can support your husband, partner, or other support person while you are being prepped for surgery.
In many cases, a dad and/or a doula is not permitted to accompany a woman into the operating room during the initial preparation for surgery (including the spinal or epidural placement).
And in many cases, dads or partners are extremely nervous during this waiting period!
A doula can help a woman’s support person to remain calm while s/he is waiting for the “okay” to enter the operating room. She can help to describe what will likely occur during the surgery, she can remind him or her of any “responsibilities” that s/he might have (such as taking pictures after the baby is born), or she can even just offer the general emotional support and encouragement that the dad or partner might need at that very moment.
If your anesthesiologist and OB/GYN allow it, your doula can remain by your side during the surgery.
In some cases, care providers will allow a second support person (such as a doula) to accompany a couple during a cesarean section.
This can be particularly helpful after the baby is born. Oftentimes, the baby must be monitored in an area of the operating room that is relatively far away from the mother. Sometimes, this monitoring is even performed in a separate nursery. With a doula by your side, your husband or partner can go to be near the baby without having to worry about leaving you alone.
In addition, it can be particularly helpful for a woman to have a doula by her side while her uterus is being repaired. To the surprise of many women, this is the longest part of a c-section, ranging anywhere from twenty minutes to a couple of hours, often depending on how many previous cesareans a woman has undergone. Having continuous emotional support from a doula at this time can be exceedingly important for some women.
If you would like your doula present during your cesarean section, especially if you plan for your husband or partner to accompany you as well, please make sure to discuss this option with your care provider and with the hospital staff. Often, the policies on this issue vary from doctor to doctor.
Your doula can offer physical and emotional support in the recovery room.
The initial recovery period can be quite stressful for a new mom. Her spinal or epidural is wearing off, she may feel groggy from that or other pain medication she is now receiving, and she has very limited mobility. And did I mention that she also has a new baby?!
A doula can help both a mom and her partner to have as peaceful a recovery as possible. She can guide a mom through various physical comfort measures (such as guided breathing or visualization) if the mom is experiencing a lot of pain. She can help with positioning, both for breastfeeding and for simply holding the baby. She can take pictures, she can wipe away tears, and she can even set up an appointment to join you at the hospital later that day or the next to help you as you regain your mobility and begin the sometimes arduous task of walking.
And when desired, she can recommend local or national groups (such as ICAN) that can offer you peer-to-peer support in your physical and emotional recovery.
So while doula support during a planned cesarean might look much different from doula support during a planned vaginal birth, it is still the same in spirit. In other words, a doula can still offer physical, emotional, and informational support to you before, during, and after your cesarean birth.
And you might even be surprised to find how much this support enhances your experience and eases your recovery!
This post is a part of my “Doulas are for All Types of Women” series honoring International Doula Month. I’m also giving away a copy of The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin for International Doula Month. Please see my original post in this series to find out how you can win!