When you first found out you were pregnant you might have considered hiring a doula to assist you and your partner to support you in labor. You had probably read about the research that has shown that when a woman receives continuous support through her labor from a doula, it leads to shorter labor and decreases the likelihood of her having a c-section. But somewhere along the line, your baby has decided she has other plans about how she wants to enter the world that is making a C-section birth look inevitable. Perhaps she is breech, and no matter how many hours you get on hands and knees she won’t budge. Or maybe you’ve been having a high-risk pregnancy with a chronic health condition which requires she be born a little earlier than term for both her safety as well as your own. So, guess you won’t be needing that birth doula after all, right?
In simple terms, a birth doula is indispensable to hire if you already know you will be having a scheduled C-section (after confirming of course that your hospital will allow her into the operating room with you and your partner; if they don’t, ask your care provider why and if they would be willing to revisit that policy). Your doula will be able to meet with you and your partner in advance to help you prepare for what to expect in a way that care providers won’t. Sure, your O.B. will cover the procedure itself in all of its clinical terms, but your doula will reframe what happens in the O.R. through the lens of the human parents-to-be who still want to provide the most profound and beautiful birth for their baby that they can.
Your doula will help you prepare birth preferences that will include things you thought you might have to forego due to the surgery, for example, skin-to-skin contact immediately after the birth, delayed cord clamping, aromatherapy, photography etc. She will also help you formulate a contingency plan in advance if for any reason the baby needs to visit the NICU immediately (or soon) after the birth. Keep in mind that if this happens, your partner will likely follow the baby to the NICU which means leaving you alone in the O.R. by necessity. During this critical time of separation, your doula will facilitate communication with your partner in real time. I have attended births where I’ve been able to share photographs with the mother that the partner has taken in the NICU of the baby while she’s still being stitched up in the O.R.; it’s indescribable how much peace of mind it’s given her that baby is O.K. vs. agonizing over not knowing what’s going on (although nurses may try to keep you abreast as best they can, they have lots of other duties that take priority). Plus, you can’t put a price of having the warm and nurturing presence of a doula by your side giving you 100% of their attention when you’re in the O.R. and recovery waiting to be reunited with your family.
A doula will also help you prepare ahead of time for the ‘fourth trimester’ when you’re back home post-surgery trying to simultaneously recover from abdominal surgery, navigate breastfeeding and adapt to motherhood. The idea of juggling it all can feel overwhelming, but a doula can offer suggestions of how best to delegate household duties and recommend asking for help when needed (and it will be needed). And guess what? There are also well-trained post-partum doulas who are willing and able to join you at home to help you with this transition!
So before you decide a doula can’t help you if you’re having a C-section, give it some more thought. The perfect doula is out there ready to transform your planned ‘C-section’ into the beautiful ‘belly birth’ that it could and should be.