Doulas and Cesareans

Why would someone want to hire a doula for a planned cesarean birth? Are doulas even allowed into the OR? What role would a doula play for these births?

Moms having a cesarean birth hire a doula for many of the same reasons you would benefit from a doula at ANY birth – emotional support, explanations and reassurance, reminders of your birth plan, recording a time line of events, someone to stay with mom while dad is at the baby’s side, and breastfeeding support. Don’t forget a doula begins providing services during your pregnancy – meeting with you for prenatal visits, helping you explore your birth hopes and plans, talking over any concerns you have and connecting you with resources. Postpartum a doula visits to help ensure your nursing relationship is going well, talks over your birth experience with you, and provides follow up support. Doulas are a fantastic help for ALL moms, as they work with you through your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum time.

More hospitals are allowing two support people into the OR, to include a partner and other person (mother, doula, photographer, friend, etc.) This is going to vary depending on the OB and anesthesiologist, but it’s worth checking with your care provider in advance. For the birth the cesarean birth I just attended we did get the OB’s okay in advance, but I’ve been told it’s ultimately the call of the anesthesiologist on the day of the birth. So the answer is a doula may be allowed into the OR and it’s worth checking! Even if the doula is not able to be with your during the birth, she can be there when you enter the recovery room.

Specific to a cesarean arrival, your doula is able to talk you through what can be a scary experience! We can explain the steps of the surgery, reassure your partner if they witness some things that can appear alarming, report back to mom as the baby is examined and encourage the nurses to make sure the baby stays within mom’s line of sight. The sights, smells, and sounds of a cesarean birth can be surprising and your doula can help explain what is happening. Some parents have a hard time with the scent from the cauterizing tool and we have little tricks (like a drop of peppermint essential oil in your mask!) to help with those concerns.

Once your baby is here a doula continues to help, perhaps snapping photos of those first sweet moments with your baby. If skin-to-skin care is possible in the OR we can help hold baby in place so your partner can focus on you and this exciting arrival. If there are any concerns we can stay with mom while dad accompanies your little one to the nursery, which hopefully will not be necessary! Once in the recovery room we can assist you with positioning while nursing to help avoid pressure on your incision site, and assist in getting baby situated for some skin-to-skin time. Doulas will remain generally a couple hours postpartum so we can accompany you to your postpartum room and help make sure you get settled, and ensure our partner has a chance to grab something to eat and drink.

For those situations in which the cesarean was unplanned, there are often MANY questions and mixed emotions! You are excited to meet your little one but the unanticipated need for a surgical birth can be terrifying and full of anxiety for both partners. A doula experienced in the OR can help answer your questions or find the medical staff who has the answers. When you are overwhelmed with the unexpected, a doula can help you focus on the beautiful parts of your birth and not be distracted by the environmental stressors. If your baby has any special concerns at birth then a doula experienced in premature arrivals or one who has worked with babies with medical concerns can help connect you with the resources and support you need.

I’ve had the chance to speak with many mothers who have given birth by cesarean, both those using doulas and those without. Over and over again I hear of how much it helps to have that experienced support person in the delivery room to focus on the new parents. It is often only AFTER our birth that we realize how incredibly beneficial a doula is… this is your baby’s birth, and the memories of this experience will stay with you forever. You deserve all the support possible!

Heidi Thaden-Pierce