Will A Doula Talk Me Out of an Epidural? And, What Exactly is A Doula?
What is a doula? It turns out that’s the second question.
The first question is, “Can I have a doula and an epidural? Or, is that a mutually exclusive concept?”
If you’re the kind of mom to be rolling into the hospital on delivery day, and introducing herself down the hallways as, “Hi, I’m Sarah in room 203. Just so you know, I DO want an epidural. I’ve heard if you wait too long, it’s too late. I just want to be clear, I don’t want that to happen. So, keep me in mind on your rounds. I want that epidural.”
Is this hard-line, ‘I’m all in on the epidural’ soon-to-be-mom a good candidate for a doula?
I asked Erin Fritz, CD (DONA) this question, expecting at least a flinch or a side eye.
“You don’t get an epidural with the first contraction, so a doula can be an important part of your birth plan. There are things that happen before then. And, if you get an epidural, there are position changes we can do to help the baby to descend and rotate in the optimal way,” notes Erin.
“After the birth, the mom still needs the same support with breastfeeding and other support too,” she reminds me.
A medicated birth and having a doula can go hand in hand, and often does. There was absolutely no judgement in her tone or her look. So, we press on.
To be abundantly clear. Do you grab the needle from the anesthetist? Give a look of shame?
Doulas aren’t only there to give comfort techniques in non-medicated, natural births. “Last time I looked, I think about 50% of my moms were epidural moms,” said Erin.
She isn’t shaken. And, I believe her in her core value that a doula’s job is to give emotional, physical and informational support to natural and epidural moms alike. I’m already liking Erin, and then we got into what a doula will do for you.
What exactly is a doula?
Oh, the mysteries surrounding the doula. There are many. The aura that surrounds the idea. The gentle tilt of the head and look of confusion when one says the mere words, ‘birth doula’. That very look was contouring my face into unflattering shapes. So, I had to learn more.
A doula provides emotional, physical and informational support both during and after the birth.
Don’t most people bring their husband or birth partner into the room? How does a doula help?
“The husband or birth partner plays a very important role. They know the mom in a way I never could. They love them and can support them emotionally. I am there for them both.”
How does a doula’s role differ from the medical staff and nurses? (My daughter’s middle name is that of the nurse who helped me after child birth. Nurses are amazing.)
“Nurses are great and provide amazing service. But they must come and go to see all their patients. Same with Doctors. I am there to support the Mom and parenting partner through the full birthing process. I don’t come and go. A good doula has built up a relationship. That’s the most important aspect. We meet with clients a few times before birth, and so I’m more emotionally tied to the mom and her preferences.”
What is the physical support?
“Physical support includes comfort techniques, water, food, reminders to use the bathroom, massage of the head, shoulder, lower back, feet, get a glass of water; whatever physical support needed in the moment. It’s unique to each situation. Even just being present. Both to relate to and to relay what she is going through and support her.”
With you when things progress
“Often times a mom doesn’t want their partner to leave, because they get to a point in labor where they just want their partner right there with them, but they still need water for example. And sometimes the partners need a break in labor, too. So, it’s nice for them to have someone there when they need that break.”
Doctors inevitably will have suggestions prenatally and during birth.
- If it is prenatal, you can go home and do research, while leaning on the expertise of your doula who has “good, solid resources” at their disposal.
- If it is in the birthing room, where often there is still time to talk; your doula can help you with a more informed consent.
- A doula can discuss the pros and con of the Doctor’s medical suggestion, provide alternatives, information and allow a more informed decision to the birth parents on what is a necessity and what is optional. “So, they don’t have to decide on demand,” or proceed with a next step “solely because the Doctor says so. They can make their own informed decisions.”
“My goal is to remain as neutral and unbiased and as I can. To inform the parents to make whatever decision is best for them. Regardless of what I want,” says Erin Fritz regarding her informational objective. “Regardless of what the Doctor wants. It’s just what is best for them.”
Where does a new soon-to-be parent start?
Once certified, birth doulas earn the credential CD(DONA), and postpartum doulas receive PCD(DONA). That is your first indicator.
Then there are some basic questions: How many births have you supported? What is your certification? What’s your training? Can I get a reference? But the most important question is, can we get together and talk? A personality and temperament match is key. This is a personal and emotional journey; your doula match is important.
To get in touch with Erin or other top doulas for an interview or further questions, you can go to Birch Family Birth Services if you are in the Los Angeles area, or DONA International to find a doula for your needs.
Do I really need a doula?
Often, second time parents who had a first birth not go as expected will hire a doula for the second birth. They want it to go differently. “In that case, there is a lot of support and education.”
But whether it is your first birth, second, or more, “Every birth is unique,” says Erin.
What about my privacy?
In our next interview with a doula, we will unveil the questions moms have regarding physical privacy. Being either modest or concerned about the appearance of their girly bits (pubic hair, no pubic hair, and the fact they don’t care). The emotional privacy sensitivities. Understand a doula vs. midwife. And, any other questions you may send our way.
Baby Buzz - No Single Truth in Parenting by Hummingbird Infant
These are the truths uncovered by Hummingbird Infant about doulas and epidurals, in our celebration that there is no single truth in parenting. Only your truth. Follow us on Instagram, and all the socials @hummingbirdinfant so we can figure this parenting thing out together.
Erin is a birth doula, childbirth educator, and the owner of Birch Family Birth Services, Erin firmly believes every woman deserves to have a safe and satisfying birth experience. You can reach her here.
Sarah is a birth mom, adoptive mom, wife, working mom and optimist. She is the founder of Hummingbird Infant. Sign up for our free confidence-boosting weekly Baby Buzz email for insights to help you in your parenting journey.