Have you ever heard a woman say "I'm not going to have a doula because I'm going to have an epidural"? Maybe you've even though that before.
I'm hear to tell you guys something. You CAN and SHOULD have a doula regardless of your choice on pain medication! I'm not hear to tell you about the benefits/risks of an epidural, the cascade of interventions, or talk about how an epidural can do this or not do that. That's another post for another time.
I'm going to tell you HOW a woman with an epidural can be supported during labor and WHY it's so important to do so.
Let me start with a few things. Childbirth is about mom and baby. It's about a woman becoming a mother either for the first time or the fifth time. It's about a mother's choices being respected, being an active part of decision making, and creating a positive memory that will last a life time. Sometimes that includes an epidural, sometime it includes a c-section, sometimes it even means mom gives birth all by herself with the staff standing against the wall and watching. Okay, end of little soap box preach, back to epidurals and doulas.
HOW can a doula support a woman with an epidural?
1- Emotional support. Labor is emotional with or without drugs. Parents deserve loving guidance and total support duirng this emotional journey!
2- Positioning. Babies have to wiggle their way out of the pelvis ya know. So, instead of laying on one side for a few hours, lets get you into some crazy, yet appropriate positions, to optimize your baby's decent into your birth canal. You are not immobile with an epidural, you can still move to different positions in your bed. Side lying, squatting, hands and knees, I've seen it all- with an epidural in place.
3- Doula for the Dad. Now that mom has some pain relief, it's time to check in with Dad and see how he is feeling, what he needs, and what questions he has. A doula has a vast knowledge of labor and can reassure Dad that everything happening is normal, or if something needs attention, everyone will talk about options.
4- You read "cascade of interventions" up there, right? (I know I said I wouldn't talk about it, and I'm really not going into detail here.) Well, a doula might be able to help a mom avoid interventions like Pitocin. Every intervention has a time a place, it doesn't belong in each and every labor, it can be used wisely, and it can optimize your birth in some cases. Unnecessary interventions are less likely to happen when a mother has a doula.
5- Oh crap, my epidural isn't working! *sigh* I'm sorry ladies, but sometimes they just don't work. They aren't placed correctly and only half of the body is pain free while the other half is...pain full. You can ask your friends, odds are you'll hear of one or two women who's epidural didn't work. You'll definitely want comfort measures to be used during this time!
6- Peanut ball! The peanut ball goes in between moms legs and opens her pelvis up so baby has a lot of room to wiggle around. I recently added a few of these colorful balls to my collection and used one at a recent birth. This mom laid on her side with the ball between her legs and after one contraction she could FEEL her baby move down- a few contractions later she was complete and ready to push. For more info on this awesome tool, check out this link.
7- What if there isn't time? Sometimes it does happen. Labor progresses very quickly and the mom who was planning an epidural doesn't have time for one. Anyone who has experienced this can probably tell you how great a doula would have been. A doula would help mom get in the zone, use breathing techniques, apply counter pressure, and help mom get into a good pushing position.
WHY is it important for women to have support?
Studies show that women who have a doula are less likely to have postpartum depression, more likely to breastfeed, and are more likely to have a satisfying birth experience. Happy mom, happy baby, happy dad. All because YOU were supported along the way. You were made choices for your family. You gave birth, with a doula by your side.