How Doulas support Cesarean Births

how doula support can enhance a cesarean birth

For Cesarean Awareness Month, I’d like to share how doula support can enhance cesarean births and help bring forth a meaningful experience.

When working with expectant mothers I like to ask what they envision for their birth experience. Many soon-to-be mothers who seek out my support are anticipating having a vaginal birth or a VBAC and throughout our discussion I often hear “I really don’t want a cesarean.” I hear you and understand the resistance and the risks involved. Cesarean sections seem to bring up a lot of anxiety, mainly because the rate of cesarean sections in the U.S. is 31.7% of all births and even higher for low income women or women of color. That’s 1 in 3 baby’s born via Cesarean with many preformed unnecessarily and this practice has not translated into healthier moms or babies.

So why do so many doctors preform unnecessary cesarean sections?

The answer is not so straightforward, but many doctors are generally paid quite a bit more for a cesarean section than for a vaginal birth. They can also be scheduled on a specific day and time. This convenience, along with the nudge for more money might have something to do with the high percentage rates. I welcome technology and medical advances and believe we are lucky to have Cesarean sections because they ARE lifesaving IF you need them. For example, conditions like placenta previa, preeclampsia, hemorrhaging, pregnancy-induced hypertension, baby’s oxygen supply being blocked, labor not progressing at all, and either your or your baby are not doing well, or baby’s position is not optimal for a vaginal birth. But, there needs to be a clear, compelling medical reason for having the surgery. If not, they should be avoided.

The one thing I know to be true, it that birth is unpredictable, so having awareness and excellent support can make all the difference for your birth experience. So today, in celebration for Cesarean Awareness Month, I’d like to share how doula support can enhance a cesarean birth and help bring forth a meaningful experience.

Many expectant couples will experience labor before the birth of their child, and a rising number of those couples will hire a doula for labor support. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine state, “one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support, such as a doula.” I believe all women should be allowed and encouraged to have continuous doula support during labor. A doula for every woman that wants one!

Numerous clinical studies have found that with a doula who provides continuous support during labor, women have shorter labors, fewer complications, and fewer cesarean births. But, the reality is that some births will, due to various reasons, result in a cesarean.

So how can Doulas support parents during a cesarean birth?

Sometimes it depends upon the location. Some hospitals allow a doula in the OR (operating room) along with your partner, but most do not. So what then? Below you will find ways in which a doula can support a birthing family through cesarean or what I call a “belly birth.”

#1 During surgery prep

During surgery prep, before leaving the labor room for the OR. Doulas are really great at holding space, especially when things are chaotic. If time has been spent creating a relaxing, calm environment, that will likely change when staff are getting everything ready for surgery.  A doula can help the mother maintain focus, relaxation, and help to push away fear with affirmations and encouragement.

#2 A doula is also a great advocate and educator.

They can encourage parents to ask questions about anything that needs clarification. Sometimes parents like to know what to expect inside the OR and others just want facts without much detail. As a doula, I can offer my expertise to give a deeper understanding of how to prepare and what to expect during and after surgery for both parents, depending on what they are wanting at the time.

#3 Updating family members.

If parents want family members to know what’s going on (who haven’t been updated on the events) doulas can communicate with additional family or friends. A doula can relieve some stress by passing on any information the birthing parents allow. 

#4 Transfer parents’ belongings to the postpartum room.

Typically after surgery, mothers are in a recovery room before being transferred to a postpartum room where they’ll spend the duration of their stay. When parents are in the OR, doulas can be moving everything over to the postpartum room. It can be really nice to come into the postpartum room and see that a Doula has transferred all belongings, bags, pillows, toiletries and other important items to that room. Making everything accessible, warm and welcoming.

Greeted with a smile and a familiar face to help parents settle in. What happens next will depend on what the parents really want and need at that time. Sometimes partners/dads need food or some coffee, which a doula can provide. A doula can assist with any breastfeeding support mom might be needing. But, most importantly, a doula can give calm and confident guidance through this transition.

#5 In the recovery room.

If doulas aren’t allowed in the OR, many times they can join parents in the recovery room. Which is a great opportunity to attend to the parents’ needs. Doulas are there to help with the first breastfeed, be an extra person to stay with mom if dad/partner needs to go elsewhere with the baby, someone to take family photos, grab extra blankets, feed ice chips to mom, etc. Doulas are by your side! 

One thing I know to be true is how unpredictable birth can really be.

It’s hard to plan for everything that might take place. But, it can be stressful when things change drastically or unexpectedly. A good doula can be there to help make the transition smoother. Another attribute doulas possess is knowing the perfect time to take their leave to allow parents to settle in and bond with their new baby as a family. Typically, their support does not end there. Most doulas offer postpartum visits too, which fills a gap between parents at home and the healthcare system. This can be time to process the birth together as a team, while also helping parents settle into life with their newborn in the comfort of their own home.

As a doula, #ilovewhatidoula, my role is to give mothers, her partner, and their family emotional support, physical comfort, educate/advocate and provide reassurance and perspective. I believe there is a doula for every woman who wants effective support for pregnancy, birth and beyond. Here’s to finding the perfect doula for you!

1 Comment

  1. […] baby as often as they can. If there are times that mother and baby need to be separated, or after a cesarean section, dad/partner can hold baby skin-to-skin and provide just as many benefits and enhance bonding. […]

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