epidural

Is a Doula Right for Women Who Choose to Have an Epidural?

Two common questions asked among expecting moms are, “If I plan to get an epidural, do I still need a doula?” and, “If I plan to have an unmedicated birth, but during labor decide I want an epidural, can a doula still help?” The answer to both of these questions is, YES! Doulas are extremely beneficial to a mother laboring with an epidural. A doulas role during your birth is to provide emotional, physical, and informational support. An excellent doula knows how to support you in whatever scenario, and with whatever type of support you require. There are several specific ways a doula can support you through a birth with an epidural.
epidural
Preparing for Birth 
During your prenatal visits, you and your doula may have talked about comfort measures. No matter if you are planning an epidural or an unmedicated birth, being prepared with some comfort techniques and having the physical support of a doula during early and active labor is invaluable. Your doula can meet you at home in early labor and help you stay comfortable until it’s time to go to the hospital.Staying Informed
Prior to the placement of the epidural, your doula will talk you through the procedure so you know what to expect. We want you to feel fully informed with each step of the epidural placement. Knowing what to expect beforehand can dispel any fears or anxiety you may have felt about the epidural. We will also remind you of coping techniques (breathing and relaxing through contractions) that will help you get through the procedure. Often times only one support person can be in the room when your epidural is placed. If this is the case, we give your partner a quick refresher (in needed) on how to help you stay relaxed and calm.Setting the Atmosphere – Holding Space
We want you to feel relaxed and ready to bring your precious baby into this world. Dimmed lighting, soft music, essential oils of your choice diffusing, and massaging your head, shoulders, or hands, are all great ways to keep you comfortable, and this can be done with or without an epidural. If you have been laboring for a while and decide you would like to get an epidural your doula will still be present with you for the rest of your labor and birth. We want you to know that you have that emotional support to encourage you and remind you that soon your sweet baby will be in your arms. This might be a great time for you and your partner to regroup or even take a nap and rest! You may even decide to braid your hair or put on a little makeup. This is YOUR birth and we want you to do what makes you feel comfortable.Getting into Good Laboring Positions with an Epidural
While you have an epidural, it may be difficult for you to get into different positions. Your doula can help to maneuver you into optimal positions to open the pelvis and help baby move down. Doulas love using the peanut ball for this! Your doula can help coordinate efforts of your birth team to honor your wishes and still achieve an “active” and physiological labor and birth if at all possible.

Pushing Stage
When it’s time to push, your doula will be by your side. You may even have enough feeling in your legs to get into an assisted “throne” position or semi-squat position with an epidural. If you need those extra words of encouragement or you need her to help you into a better pushing position, your doula will be there. 

A Change of Plans
In some cases, an epidural does not take effect. According to this study, epidurals have a 12% failure rate.  Another scenario where your plans would change is if you end up having a rapid labor with no time for an epidural. As you can imagine, planning for and expecting a pain-free birth and then getting anything but that, would be extremely difficult mentally and physically, especially if you have not prepared for natural labor. Having a doula by your side in these situations can GREATLY help in getting through this and any sudden change of plans.

For some women, an epidural is the first choice in the birth plan, and for some women an epidural is plan B. Either way, your doula is there to support your birth and your choices. We want you to have a positive and amazing experience bringing your baby into the world.

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