I often hear the phrase, “oh I don’t need a doula, I’ m planning on having an epidural”. Well I’m here to say that a doula certainly can be a big help during an epidural birth. A doulas job is to provide support to the mother and her family, no matter how her labour looks or plays out. Epidurals can be a very useful for pain relief, especially for extremely long labours. Doulas are useful for any type of labour, but why might you want a doula if you are planning to get an epidural?
To start out, you must realize there is usually a significant period of labour time before you will be able to get her epidural. Early labor, when you will most likely be at home and even once you are admitted, it can take time (especially at our hospital) for the anesthetist to be free to give you your epidural. A doula can help you during that time with breathing exercises, positions and movements and different pain relief techniques to help carry you through till your epidural comes.
It is just nice to have another pair of hands. Doulas can do a run to Starbucks or Tim’s or stay with you while your partner does. Labour can go on for many hours and expecting your partner to stay at the top of his/her game that whole time is asking a lot of him or her. Having a Doula there means that your partner can take a break and go eat or sleep and not worry that they are abandoning you.
Not every epidural works. If the epidural is the only tool in your box it can be scary if it doesn’t work but not every epidural does. Or some only work for half your body, which can be SUPER frustrating. A doula can help you take this all in stride and employ other pain management techniques to help you cope with your labour.
A doula is a great source of informational support. She can tell you when things that are happening to you are normal and when there is a cause for concern. Labour and delivery floors can be very busy and it can be invaluable to have someone with you constantly to answer your questions and concerns.
Even though your pain should be lessened by having the epidural there can be other issues that arise. Since you are somewhat restricted to bed (depending on the strength of your epidural and hospital policy) you are less able to move about in a way that helps encourage the baby to continue to descend in your pelvis. A doula can help you to assume positions that will help labour to continue at a good pace. This can be invaluable if your baby is posterior or facing the wrong way.
One of the biggest things a woman in labour needs is emotional support. A doula can provide that, continuously throughout your labour. And she doesn’t get upset if you yell at her or swear or squeeze her hand too hard. That’s what I am there for, to support you. And I always tell my clients, “what happens on labour and delivery, stays on labour and delivery”.
Doulas can help in these ways and many more. One way to find out how your doula feels about epidurals is to ask her during your initial interview. A doula should be very open to epidurals. This is your labour, not hers and she should be able to support you no matter what kind of labour you are planning.