Do I Need A Doula If I Am Getting An Epidural?

By: Jennifer Cole | Epidurals | May 23, 2020

So you’re pregnant and you’ve heard about these wonderful doula people who you can hire to support you during your birth. Sounds tremendous, right? Just imagining that there will be a person in the room whose sole priority is to provide you comfort, reassurance and encouragement during labor sounds like a dream.

But wait – is a doula only needed if I’ve decided that I’m going to have an unmedicated birth? What if I’ve left the door open on getting an epidural if/when I’ve reached the point where it’s more intense than I can handle and determined I can’t make it all the way to the end of labor without one? Will I really need a doula after that? Will she shake her head in disappointment at my decision and leave the room if I decide to get one?

Even If You Get An Epidural, You Usually Spend Hours In Labor Unmedicated

Now’s the time to dispel some misinformation about when a doula is and isn’t needed. The short answer is this: A doula is always needed. Simply put, everyone deserves a doula, whether or not you decide to get an epidural at some point in time.

Here are some things to keep in mind if it’s your first baby and you don’t know what to expect. The average first-time labor will last between and 12 and 24 hours, meaning you will likely spend at least several of those hours in labor sans medication. You definitely will appreciate the support of a doula in those hours. She will keep you moving, focusing on your breath, and encouraging you that your body knows what it’s doing. She’ll be squeezing your hips, making sure you’re drinking water, giving you aromatherapy or maybe some acupressure to keep you comfortable in labor while also making sure you’re in optimal positions to keep labor progressing.

A Doula and An Epidural Can Coexist

If you decide to get an epidural, your doula’s job is to still focus 100% on you, your baby and your comfort. If you’re having any qualms about your decision, she will assure you that the decision made the most sense for you and your birth.

You’ll still need to move in bed from side to side at least every 30 minutes to an hour and she will help make sure you’re comfortable with pillows, a peanut ball, and anything else you might need. She will continue to make sure you’re hydrated and in a good head space, reminding you that you brought candles and a playlist, and that you and your partner still need to connect and keep that all-important oxytocin flowing.

If You Have Questions or Concerns, A Doula Can Help You Understand Your Options

Epidurals aren’t always as simple as placing a catheter in your back and being comfortably liberated from any pain until baby arrives in a few short hours. The procedure comes with a number of potential challenges that can be difficult to navigate when you’re sleep deprived and still in labor. 

There are several interventions that your care providers may be recommended in order to keep your labor progressing. The wisdom of a doula in the room can ensure that you and your partner understand these recommendations and are given the appropriate time to make decisions without feeling undue pressure from your care team. Having someone there to break it down in layman’s terms for you so that you thoroughly comprehend the benefits and risks before consenting to an intervention is priceless. 

A Doula Will Help You Remember What the Ultimate Goal Is

Your doula will provide this invaluable service: She will remind you to connect to your baby and your body. Oftentimes an epidural can throw you for a loop because you’ve been numbed; the pain has been taken away but so has the sensation of the baby moving down through your pelvis. A doula will be there to remind you what’s taking place in your body and to honor it and tap into it and stay connected with your baby. Once it’s time to push she will be your cheerleader and help you find good positions for birth (even with an epidural there are various positions you can get in for optimal pushing). And then once baby is born, she’ll take a ton of amazing photos, make sure the golden hour is honored by one and all and assist with baby’s first latch.

So to answer your question sweet parent-to-be, you will never regret having a doula at your birth, regardless of whether or not you decide on an epidural.

For more information on doulas

About the author:
Jennifer Cole CD(DONA) DONA Certified Birth Doula and Hypnobabies Certified HypnoDoula supporting families throughout San Diego County.

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