Today, I want to dispel the myth that doulas are only there to support mothers who want to labor and birth without an epidural. This belief is absolutely NOT true! Yes, natural pain relief is something that doulas are highly skilled in, but there is so much more that a doula can still offer a mother who has chosen a medicated birth. Here are seven reasons that doulas are equally important to mothers who have chosen an epidural:
1. Stalled labor and prolonged pushing - The results of the studies are in, and they are mixed. Some studies have shown a correlation of epidurals with stalled labor and prolonged pushing times, and others haven't, but the general consensus in the birth community is that anything that restricts movement can lead to a slower labor progression. Doulas are masterminds at making conditions ideal for good labor progression. Alleviating emotional stress, creating a prepared environment, promoting proper hydration, and finding positions that can help with progression are just a few of the ways that a doula can help you shorten your labor and avoid medical interventions.
2. Empowerment - It is so important for a birthing mother to feel empowered to make her own choices, to believe that her body is strong and capable, and to feel that she is in control of her situation. Mothers who choose an epidural can benefit from a doula who can empower her through evidence-based information and affirmations.
3. Informed consent - Laboring mothers who receive an epidural are at higher risk for other medical interventions, which means that a mother with an epidural could benefit from having a doula. Doulas are not medical professionals and will not encourage you to go against your doctor's recommendations; however, they will make sure that you completely understand the pros and cons to any non-emergent intervention before you consent to it, and will encourage you to make an educated and informed decision.
4. Holding Space - Whether or not a mother chooses an epidural, birth can be a highly emotional and sometimes tumultuous event. A doula holds space for a mother by being a companion, centering force, and anchor in the storm while imposing no judgment or influence over her choices or emotions.
5. Other comfort measures - Mothers with epidurals might not feel as much pain associated with labor, but there are other discomforts that a doula can help with. Some side effects of an epidural can include headache, nausea, dizziness, and itchy skin. Whatever it is that you're experiencing, doulas are excellent at finding ways to make you more comfortable.
6. Partner Support - Birth partners might have "the easy job" during labor and birth, but their job is by no means a walk in the park. Staying awake for hours on end, attending to the mother's every need, and experiencing all of the emotions that come with watching your partner go through the process of labor and childbirth, can be hard on a birth partner. Doulas allow the birth partner to feel comfortable using the restroom, taking a nap, getting some fresh air, calling to update family, or getting a bite to eat, knowing that the mother is receiving continuous and skilled one-on-one attention in their absence.
7. Postpartum breastfeeding support - Whether or not the mother has chosen an epidural, if they are choosing to breastfeed they can still benefit from the postpartum breastfeeding support that a doula can offer.
As a doula, my job is not to help mothers birth their babies with no pain medication. It is my job and my honor to assist a mother with having the birth that they desire, and to deliver my services with ample compassion, free of judgment.