how can a doula help with c-section?
Doula support is increasing in popularity among new families and for good reason. There is evidence that suggests doula support can increase satisfaction in birth and laboring parents report experiencing less pain. While using doula support cannot guarantee a birthing outcome (e.g. vaginal birth or no epidural), you’ll be happy you have an experienced birth professional by your side no matter what kind of birth you end up having, and especially if you end up needing a C-section, also known as cesarean birth.
According to the CDC, in 2020 C-sections made up for nearly one third of all births in the United States (31.8% to be exact). That’s hundreds of thousands of families who are left to navigate parenthood with their newborn while simultaneously healing from major abdominal surgery. A birth or postpartum doula is an invaluable resource for these families who often need more help due to physical limitations post-cesarean.
A doula will help you prepare for birth and learn your options
Whether planned or unplanned, a C-section can cause confusion and anxiety over what to expect and what is allowed. Working with a doula can help you to prepare questions ahead of time so that you can make informed decisions and have an empowered birth. There is still lots of opportunity to exercise preferences in a cesarean birth and working with a doula can give you the confidence to ask for what you want and what you need in your birth.
They can tell you what’s normal, and what’s not
In most cases, your doula will be by your side not only during your surgical procedure, but also afterwards. Even in the instances when they may not be allowed into the operating room to directly support you, they will prepare you in the moments before and can meet you in recovery. (Whether a doula can stay with you in the operating room has to do with your care provider, so ask ahead of time about policy so you can begin advocating now to have your doula with you, no matter what.) As you are recovering, you will likely have lots of questions about what you are experiencing. There is a large window of what is normal but when you aren’t sure it’s nice to have an extra set of eyes on-call, who can help identify if you need more medical attention or can help you put fears to rest.
Flexible use of time
Whether you know ahead of time that you will be having your baby via a cesarean birth or if it’s an emergency cesarean or suggested due to lack of continued dilation during labor, your doula may be able to be flexible about the time that they spend with you. In most cases, doulas have a clause in their contract allowing you to choose physical support during the cesarean birth or postpartum doula support once you get home. When interviewing doulas, be sure to ask what their policy is regarding both planned and unplanned Cesarean birth and review the terms in the contract before you sign.
Help with healing
After having a cesarean, it’s important to allow your body time to rest and recuperate to aid in successful healing. That can be very difficult to do as a new parent. Hiring a postpartum doula means having more help around the house, help with the baby, and help with suggestions that may speed and ease your recovery. Let your postpartum doula worry about folding laundry, dishes and tidying up, so that you can snuggle your newborn and rest. Your postpartum doula can also be an extra set of supportive hands to hold and soothe your newborn while you eat or shower. Overnight doula support is another way to help with healing after having a C-section. No matter how you’ve chosen to feed your baby, an overnight postpartum doula can come to your home during the overnight hours to help you feed, change or hold your little one, while you get the sleep you need.
New families usually need some level of support when it comes to lactation, especially if they’ve never lactated before. Sometimes the interventions that lead to a c-section can also act as barriers to successful bodyfeeding (such as medications that can make your baby drowsy or separation from your baby). If bodyfeeding is a goal of yours, you’ll be happy to have someone on your team who will encourage and support your desires despite any challenges you may face. When hiring a doula ask what experience they have in challenging bodyfeeding initiation.
Process your birth story
No one doula is an expert on all birthing outcomes, but your doula can act as a great sounding board as you process and digest your birth story. They can also answer questions you may have about your experience and speak on similar situations they may have witnessed.
Hiring a doula to support yourself and your family is truly an invaluable gift. You’ll first get emotional support to navigate the procedure and to process your experience. Once you’re home with your baby, you’ll then get the physical assistance you need to transition into parenthood and to aid in recovery.
Laura Max is a birth and postpartum doula, available on the boober platform, having served clients in both New York and in mid-Michigan. She is a wife and the mother of two, a teenager and a 10 month old. When Laura is not supporting new families, you can find her out in nature with her own. Laura is available on the boober platform for matches.