Doulas are for Women who Have Planned Cesareans

Cesarean

Doulas are for Women who Have Planned Cesareans

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!



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8 Comments

  1. Darline
    Darline05-17-2010

    I LOVE this article!! I work primarily with high risk pregnant women on bed rest, and so often these women feel that they have no say whatsoever in the delivery and birth of their children. Once they get that “high risk” designation, Much of their freedom of choice regarding their pregnancies is gone.

    I always offer my clients support and encourage them to ask for what they need. I often recommend birth doulas but have had women kind of “blow the idea off” because they feel that they have no choices. How uplifting it is to see that they do have choices and that there are advocates! I will be certainly be sharing this with my ladies! Thanks so much!!

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas05-17-2010

      Darline, I’m so glad that you enjoyed this piece. To know that it might make a difference to a woman who feels that she has no choices whatsoever…well, that just makes my day!

  2. Exie Buehler
    Exie Buehler05-17-2010

    This is a great article. As a doula, I was once the only support person for my client and was privileged to be with her during her c-section. It was amazing to be there with her and take pictures of her baby as the nurses cleaned him up so that she could see what he looked like even before he was ready to be brought to her. I was also in the waiting room with a grandma-to-be while my client and her husband were in the OR and it was a privilege to sit peacefully and wait for the news of their baby’s birth together. Every birth is a miracle.

  3. Kate
    Kate05-17-2010

    What a lovely piece. I actually thought of this series the other day when I saw a couple on one of those “Birth Day” type shows who had a doula for a planned cesarean (they were having twins). It did strike me as a little strange at first but the mom was really nervous about the surgery and having the doula really helped her relax. Their doula also came to their house and stayed with the first twin to come home when they went to the hospital to pick up the other twin which I thought was really sweet (especially the part where she immediately tucked that baby into her Maya wrap for Kangaroo care).

  4. Tara
    Tara05-20-2010

    This article sums up my experience perfectly. I planned a drug-free birth. After on and off labor for almost 3 days, I arrived at the hospital at 8cm and 100%. I did decide to go with an epidural at that point. My doula switched gears without prejudice and reminded me how pushing would be different. Then my cervix started to swell it appeared that I might not be able to have a vaginal birth after all. We went into the c-section and my son had to be taken to the NICU. My husband was able to go with our son and I was not left feeling abandoned and alone because I had my doula. Since I was loopy from the drugs, she was able to re-explain to me why my son had to go to the NICU and what was being done to my body.
    My OB worked with me in such a way that I felt in control of my body and my choices (and I know a lot of women who have c-sections do not feel this way) and my doula made sure that I was empowered and involved in all the decisions made.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas
      BirthingBeautifulIdeas05-20-2010

      Tara, I am so glad that you shared your story here! My wish for all women who have c-sections (and vaginal births, for that matter) is that they can feel the sort of love and support that you did during your son’s birth.

  5. Morgan
    Morgan05-23-2010

    The idea of a doula during a c-section sounds so nice. Even just to have one during those couple hours leading up to the c-section would be nice. My 3rd. c-section got bumped back due to a more urgent one; waiting the extra 1-2 hours all nervous and starving was almost too much for my nerves. I think a doula would be a great way to keep the nerves calm and to stay focused.
    .-= Morgan´s last blog ..Not Allowed to Video Tape the Birth?!? =-.

  6. Best of the Birth Blogs – Week Ending May 23rd | ICAN Blog
    Best of the Birth Blogs – Week Ending May 23rd | ICAN Blog05-23-2010

    […] Birthing Beautiful Ideas had a wonderful and informative post this week on why even women who have planned cesareans might want to consider hiring a doula. […]

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