Good or bad, it’s known that in our culture that women stand a one in three chance of birthing by Cesarean.
Some women birth by scheduled Cesarean for health reasons; others are surprised by a turn of events that their well intended labor took toward unexpected Cesarean birth. Either way, preparing for a Cesarean birth with a doula is nothing short of a brilliant decision. Afterall, if the terrain vaginal birth prompts one to hire a doula for support and assistance, then Cesarean birth might certainly prompt one to reach out for support!
So how might a doula be of assistance at a birth by Cesarean? Let’s break it down into some easily understood periods in time: in pregnancy, at the hospital but before arriving to the operating room, in the operating room (OR) and after your baby arrives.
In Preparation for Birth
Women often hire doulas for emotional support, right? A doula that prepares you for the unexpected or even a scheduled Cesarean delivery is worth her weight in gold! There are often profound fears surrounding the nature of Cesarean – it is, afterall, major abdominal surgery and for many women, the first time they’ve had surgery! Most doulas have participated in Cesarean in the past and who better to have help prepare you than someone who’s participated in the process and understand the fears? A doula will also help you to modify your intents for birth (also known as a birth plan). Delayed cord clamping, family centered Cesarean with clear or dropped drapes, expressed wishes for skin to skin are all becoming much more common place but, of course, still must be requested and discussed with your provider in advance. For further information on the positive effects of skin to skin and family centered Cesarean (plus a couple of stunning photos) take a peek here.
At the Hospital
Many doulas have been to multiple hospitals on multiple occasions; it is a familiar space and some even know staff members. Even if your doula is serving you at a hospital for the first time, she will have a degree of familiarity with the process! Very likely, for the birthing family, the location, room and staff are all relative unknowns. Your doula is the one constant for you…you’ve prepared to spend this time together and in those moments when so much seems so new, she will be your grounding factor. Additionally, your doula will help to set and maintain the mood. Dimming lights, providing foot massage and reassurance are helpful to preparing for any kind of birth!
In the Operating Room
Let’s be clear, the birthing family may have to advocate to have their doula in the OR. There is much variance these days about doulas in the operating room and who will decide whether or not it will be permitted! To ask a birthing mother to decide between her partner and her doula, at an especially fragile time, is unfair, I know, but it happens and it’s important to perhaps practice that conversation ahead of time – whether you think you’ll need it or not! Once in the OR, however, your doula can help you to continue to focus on your breath and practice your labor coping while awaiting the birth of your baby. Touch, talk and even photos may be a way your doula can further work to keep you connected to your birth process.
Immediately following the birth of your baby your doula can help you to connect, bond and begin nursing…positioning can sometimes be tricky as you will likely need to learn to work around your Cesarean incision. Additionally, she will have ways to make life at home a little easier. For example, she may demonstrate ways for you to wear your baby comfortably or even how to get in and out of bed without hurting yourself!
In the end, should your baby be born by Cesarean you deserve all the support any other woman deserves. Your baby will only be born once and both of you deserve the support a doula will provide!
Barb has navigated the path of pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum with women mindfully for 17 years as a nurse and midwife’s assist and for 20 years as a doula. She guides women both in person and with online convenience offering everything from doula services and classes to virtual planning, consultation and classes! Mom to five beauties, now enjoying a near empty nest with with her hubs!
On Facebook as FreeSpirit Birth and FB groups as The Online Doula group as well as www.freespiritbirth.com