The short answer ? Yes! Popular opinion is that doulas are for natural births only, but doulas offer such incredibly vital support and information while planning/experiencing a C-section!
If you are planning a c-section, or have been given news that you must have a c-section, I encourage you to read the numerous benefits a doula brings to your birth experience!
If you know ahead of time that you will be having a C-section, you can do a lot of things to prepare. During your pregnancy, your doula will:
- Create a birth plan. Even during a C-section, you have a lot of options to review. Your doula will help you and your partner by giving you the information you need to make choices about your birth. You then will be able to discuss these preferences with your care provider so everyone is on the same page. Later this week, I will talk about the options that you have to consider when planning a c-section.
- Prepare for your C-section. Your doula will spend at least two prenatal during your pregnancy. During these visits, a doula will direct you to information outlining what to expect before, during, and after your C-section.
- Create a Postpartum Plan. Your doula will help you put a plan in motion for when your baby arrives. She will help you set up meal trains, help in the home, and any postpartum doula services you may need.
- Practice Relaxation Techniques. Your doula will help you learn and practice different relaxation techniques to use during your C-section. This will help maintain a calm and peaceful environment while you’re being prepped for the OR.
- Process any Fear or Anxiety. For some women, planning a C-section can be scary or disappointing. Your doula will work with you to help you process and confront any of these feelings before your C-section (if it’s planned)
When you arrive to the hospital to be prepped for your C-section, your doula can:
- Help you and your partner navigate fears. If you are having a hard time with fear and anxiety, your doula can help you relax using various methods such as focusing on breathing, visualization, and massage. She will also be there to help your partner with any fear or anxiety before heading into the OR.
- Take photos. Your doula can take photos of the pre-op process so that your partner can focus all their attention on you and your impending birth. Documenting the whole process can be incredibly important for remembering and celebrating the birth of your baby.
- Hand out Birth Plans. Your doula can ensure that everyone who will be in the room during your C-section has your birth plan so that they all know what your wishes are.
- Keep Family Updated. Naturally, many family members may be at the hospital with you. Your doula can give them updates on your status during pre-op so that you and your partner can relax and focus on preparing for the OR.
Inside the Operating Room
Sometimes, a doula is not allowed to be in the operating room with you, but this is not always the case. Ultimately this decision lays with your anesthesiologist so discuss this with your care provider ahead of time. During your C-section, your doula can:
- Take photos. Just like pre-op, your doula can take beautiful photos of the entire process so that you are able to remember/celebrate the birth of your baby. This way your partner can focus on you.
- Explain what is happening. Your doula can also regularly update you and what is happening as surgeons don’t usually do this. This way you know what your surgeon is doing and when your baby is being born.
- Remind staff of birth preferences. While your doula cannot speak for you, she can gently remind staff/your partner of birth preferences. Surgeons and staff can be so used to normal hospital protocol that preferences can be forgotten during the birth.
- Be by Your Side. If you do not want any photographs or information during the surgery, your doula can simply be at your side to physically support you during the birth.
- If Your Doula Cannot be in the OR. She can coach your partner on how to comfort you and suggestions for photographs. She can remain with your family and encourage and support them while they wait for updates on you and baby.
After the birth of your baby, your husband will likely accompany your baby to the nursery. Before surgery, you can discuss the possibility of your doula joining you for the remainder of your surgery/during recovery. This will need to be discussed during pre-op as your doula will need to scrub up. Other options of support after the birth include:
- Assistance feeding your baby. Your doula will help you with comfortable nursing positions if breastfeeding or she can help you with formula feeding guidelines for a newborn. Nursing can be especially difficult postpartum because of pain so comfortable positioning is key.
- Comfort Measures. Your doula can help with different techniques to be as comfortable as possible during your recovery.
- Postpartum Visits. Typically, because a doula spends much less time with you during your C-section than she would during a typical birth, she will likely come to your home at least twice for postpartum visits. During these visits, your doula will help you process any feelings or thoughts you have regarding your birth. She will help with feeding concerns. She may even help you with any chores or housekeeping tasks you can’t do during recovery.
As a mom who has had an emergency C-section and a vaginal birth, I can say I needed a doula much more for my C-section. There are so many different demands and challenges that go with a C-section birth and I encourage any woman who is preparing for one to reach out to a doula. She will be an invaluable resource to you during your pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum period.