Doulas are professionals trained to physically, emotionally, and informationally support a pregnant person and her partner during labor, birth, and, in the case of postpartum doulas, the postpartum period. Though doulas often have basic safety training, they leave the medical care to the doctors, midwives, and nurses assisting a birth. It is a common misconception that doulas only work with people who want to have unmedicated or vaginal births. The truth is that, regardless of the type of birth you have, a doula can be a great person to have around. Read on to learn more about the ways that a doula can help you if you are having a cesarean (surgical) birth.
Often, you know ahead of time whether your baby will be born via cesarean section because you and your care provider have decided that this option is best for you. Perhaps, your baby is breech or you have had a previous child via surgical birth. Or perhaps something happened during the course of your labor that made a surgical birth the safest choice. Whatever the reason that a C-section makes the most sense, you are probably wondering whether a doula has any benefits for you. It turns out that hiring a doula in advance of your C-section can help with:
- Accompanying you into surgery: this type of assistance depends on the policies of your hospital. Sometimes only one support person is allowed into surgery and it makes the most sense to choose your partner. But sometimes more than one support person is permitted, in which case a doula, who can explain things as they are happening and perhaps take photos, is a great option. Additionally, if your partner is someone who faints at the sight of blood, it might be prudent for the doula to come with you into surgery instead of your partner.
- Support during a change of plans: it is possible that your baby might be born needing medical care that requires him or her to be taken from the operating room quickly to go to the special care nursery. Your partner could then accompany the baby, while your doula stays with you through the end of your surgery and go with you into the recovery room.
- C-section preparation: because of their training and experience, doulas likely have knowledge about cesarean birth. If you are planning a C-section and don’t know what to expect, your doula can walk you through it during a prenatal meeting, as well as help you write down your preferences for how your birth will go. Some hospitals offer gentle or family-centered cesarean births, on which your doula can advise you.
- Single parenting: if you are going to parent solo, it can be helpful to have a doula with you as a familiar and warm support person during your birth experience. Doulas can be especially helpful during a cesarean birth to hold your baby so that you can see him or her soon after birth, facilitate skin-to-skin in the operating room, or take photos.
- Processing your birth before and after the fact: maybe you feel great about your scheduled c-section, or perhaps you don’t. Either way is normal and acceptable, but often societal or family pressures can contribute to your outlook. A doula can help put all the opinions you have heard in perspective and normalize your feelings and expectations. After your birth, it can also be lovely to talk through your experience with another person who was there with you. If you are facing an unplanned c-section, your doula can discuss benefits and risks with you in the moment, as well as help you process your feelings after the fact. A great doula will provide non-judgmental support, and research shows that having continuous support during your labor and delivery can contribute to how satisfied you to feel about your birth experience.
- Immediate postpartum care and initiation of breastfeeding: in the hours immediately after your birth, a doula can help you get started with breastfeeding and bring you food. In the case of a C-section, your doula can also stay with you and help you with things like lifting the baby while your partner is sleeping or taking a break to eat and getting up and walking around, which can help start your recovery.
- Postpartum recovery: after you are home from the hospital, your labor doula nearly always does a postpartum visit, when they can help with breastfeeding and baby care and debrief about your birth with you. Hiring a postpartum doula—someone trained to help during the postpartum period—is another great option for moms whose babies were born via C-section, as they can help with cooking, cleaning, baby care, and caring for you after you’ve had major abdominal surgery.