The Epidural Doula.
“I don’t need a doula, I’m getting an epidural.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that, and I’ve had to bite my tongue. An epidural is not suddenly going to make this an easy DIY experience.
Let’s get real here for a few minutes. Don’t worry I am not going to talk you out of your epidural, just going to educate you so that you don’t walk into this blindly.
Nobody signs up for a natural birth because pain sounds exciting. You can read that again. In a non-medicated birth, hormones flood your body making you capable of withstanding the immense pain. In the case of an epidural, your medication blocks both pain and pleasure hormones. With pain being the stronger of the two, sometimes that’s all you’re left with and you feel the pain without the endorphins to help you cope. You’re typically confined to a bed to be monitored properly, thus reducing many natural pain coping measures. An epidural doula can help. She knows how to get you through the remaining pain. There are pressure points, massage techniques, essential oils, etc that she is trained to use effectively for pain reduction in such times. And that’s just if you decide to get a ‘parking lot epidural’. Deciding to naturally cope through labor as long as you can, has been shown to help shorten labors. Have an epidural doula by your side to get you through the toughest part, she will help you reach your epidural at the most effective time.
Many moms report that after getting an epidural even though their pain went WAY down their anxiety went WAY up. Someone close to you can help somewhat with this just by being by your side, but epidural doulas are trained in relaxation techniques and are some of the most naturally compassionate and empathic people (in my humble opinion). They are going to help by calming your fears – they’ve seen this before many many times! They are going to help by reminding you who you are and why you’re doing this (There’s a baby at the end of this tunnel!) And they can even take your mind off of it by creating beautiful imagery with their words. Giving you tasks relevant to you can really help anxiety; for one woman, singing hymns got her through labor beautifully! Once relaxed, most women dilate much faster -if you’re anxious, this is going to be a long labor.
Although there is no known adverse effect on baby with an epidural, there has been evidence that babies born via epidural are less likely to breastfeed than those born in unmedicated labors. The good news is that mom’s with (epidural) doulas are much more likely to succeed in breastfeeding than moms without doulas! If you plan on breastfeeding and getting an epidural, hedge your bets and hire an epidural doula. She knows how to help you and baby get a good latch, and she is there for advice and education on your breastfeeding journey.
“Your Birth Plan”
You won’t feel quite yourself in an epidural. Even though you will be awake (Unless you’re choosing to nap, hooray!) many moms report grogginess, forgetfulness, and feeling ‘out of it’. If you have a birth plan, especially with instructions regarding the baby following birth, it’s important to have an epidural doula there. A dad/partner or friend is emotionally involved and therefore not often the best advocate for your birth plan when the moment arises. The doula will not speak on your behalf but will remind you, or ask you what you want when the doctor is present. The doula will pause the caregiver from performing any actions until they have your consent. That alone makes an epidural doula invaluable.
“Prenatal and Postpartum”
Yes, even epidural doulas will be a phone call away during pregnancy or postnatally. Many epidural doulas (like myself) will attend a prenatal doctor’s appointment with you to help facilitate communication, ask the right questions, and receive the truthful answers. An epidural doula will also check up on you postpartum. An epidural is not easy to heal from, and because it interrupts the body’s natural process of carefully cascading hormones, sometimes things go awry afterward. Having someone watching over you that knows what to look for, how to help, and who to recommend, is a tremendous lifesaver.
Hey mom, whatever you choose, epidural, un-medicated, or anything in between, arm yourself in education and don’t be ashamed of your choice. This birth is for you and baby, no one else. Make the best decisions for the two of you, but however your birth – I hope you choose a doula. A birth team doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart. Whenever, however, let’s make this birth glorious.