The cesarean surgery rate in the United States alone is at 32.7% according to the CDC website. This means that nearly one in three women will give birth via major surgery. This surgery may be planned in advance (scheduled cesarean) or may be decided upon during labor. So, what can a doula do to help during a surgical birth?
Scheduled Cesarean Sections
You may find that you need to schedule the delivery date of your baby to be born via c-section. The need for this can be for many reasons. If this is how you are giving birth you will still need support from other people. A doula is the perfect person to help give you this support.
As a doula I am trained to help women and their families while giving birth, whether that birth be a vaginal birth or a surgical birth.
As your doula, I am another set of hands, eyes and ears to help you better prepare for your upcoming surgical birth. I can help you get answers to your questions and formulate a birth plan for a cesarean section.
During the pre-op period, I can help explain procedures to you and your partner and help you get answers to any questions that you have, much like any other labor planning.
Once inside the operating room, I can assist you in knowing what is going on by giving you details of what is going on.
Your doctor and assistants are busy doing the surgery. The nurses are preparing the room for the baby. Your partner is awaiting the baby and will soon go to the warmer to greet the baby. I will be right at your side. I can take photos if you desire, particularly after the baby is born. I can help you voice any special requests you may have, like letting your partner announce the gender of the baby , getting to touch the baby right away, music in the room, etc. If your baby needs to go to the nursery, your partner can go with the baby, knowing that I am still by your side.
One important fact to know about the cesarean is that the baby is born in the first few minutes. The rest of the nearly hour long procedure is the repair. If your partner is busy with the baby or in the nursery, you would otherwise be alone during this period. Many of the mothers I have worked with have said having a doula for this period was incredibly reassuring and prevented them from becoming frightened or overly anxious.
During the postpartum period I can suggest post-operative comfort measures. I assist you with any breastfeeding questions you may have or special help you or baby may require with breastfeeding. I can also help with reminding nurses about your birth plan and special needs you may have.
I provide all of the above services for you should the need for a cesarean come up during your labor. If you have an emergency cesarean, my role as well as the role of your other support people may be extremely limited during the actual surgery. However, in the recovery and postpartum periods I will again be able to resume those functions.
A doula for a cesarean, particularly a scheduled cesarean, is becoming more and more popular. Many couples find that they benefit from the supportive and informative services of this extra set of trained hands during a cesarean birth.
You’ve got an amazing partner, the most fantastic BFF, perhaps a super sister, or a mother/grandmother who rocks beyond belief. Maybe even more than one of these things. So…what the heck do you need a birth doula for?!
A birth doula is a trained professional with a vast knowledge of labor and birth. The care provided by your loved ones is priceless during labor and childbirth – no one knows you better than your partner or close friends and family! The expertise and experience of a birth doula will only compliment this by providing support to your entire birth team, with the main focus always being on you. A doula will enhance the support that others will provide, without being intrusive.
Your mother, father, grandmother, and dear friends each have their own emotional response to seeing you, a woman they love experience labor, and to welcoming this new child into their lives. Doulas respect that this is a special moment for each person, and gently provide encouragement, information and reassurance that will help your loved ones offer their support in a way that also respects your needs.
Most family and friends do not have experience with labor and birth. They don’t know what is “normal”, they often don’t know the physiology of labor and how to help you find a good position to help relieve pain or discomfort, and above all else they are emotionally involved. A doula is not emotionally involved like those closest to you. We know that it’s ok if you cry during labor or curse loudly or say you want to give up. Labor is hard work! Doulas know this! But we also know you can do it and we know how to talk you through the difficult parts. We care about you. We are there to be your support, and many times Moms/Sisters/BFFs don’t know what to do when you say you give up. They want to fix it. They may try to convince you to make choices that you are trying to avoid or distract you with their worries.
A doula speaks the language of birth, both intuitively and technically. Doulas are trained in providing comfort measures for coping with pain, normalizing the experience for all involved, and assisting a mother and her partner/team in making informed choices around her birth experience and newborn care.
Last week I took a little informal survey of my non doula, non birth worker friends on my personal facebook, as well as a San Fernando Valley community group, and asked mothers and partners to name something that surprised them about birth and that they wished someone had told them about beforehand.
One common theme was support. The great need for continuous support. From comments stating that the partner just didn’t know what to do, or, that it was just too much for them to deal with, to, they just weren’t at all supportive. No matter how amazing your partner is, they too need someone to reassure them, this is normal, birth is normal, fear is normal, you’re doing great. Doulas are trained, of course, to take care of the birthing woman, but, I firmly feel that taking care of the partner is also a huge part of taking care of the birthing woman. If your partner is calm, focused, and directed, they can help you remain calm, focused and directed. Sometimes I think of myself as a labor translator…or, as this great Pam England quote says – a sherpa –
“Asking your husband to be your sole guide through labor is like asking him to lead the way on a climb of Mt Everest. He may be smart and trustworthy, you may love him, but in the Himalayas you’d both be a lot better off with a Sherpa!” – Pam England
Every labor is different. Every birth is different. Some are slow and calm, some are fast and frantic. Why not have a calm, caring voice at your side?
Whether it’s your first birth, or your fifth, the calm, nonjudgmental support of a labor and birth doula makes for a more satisfying birth experience!
~Heather Mayer – Birth and Postpartum Doula
*Part 2 will address informed consent and your right to speak up and ask questions!