Editor’s Note: In honor of International Doula Month, International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) President LaQuitha Glass shares her thoughts on doulas and cesareans as she reflects on her own birth experiences. ICAN is one of many resources The DONA Doula Chronicles has highlighted for doulas supporting families during and after cesarean births (“Cesarean Resources for Doulas”). — AG
When I gave birth to my first child by scheduled cesarean due to breech presentation, I had no clue about the concept of doulas and had never even heard mention of one. As a first time mother, I had taken great care to attend all of my prenatal appointments and the birth education workshop hosted by my hospital, all in preparation for the birth of my baby.
After an ultrasound for suspected intrauterine growth restriction, it turned out that the baby was not too small but actually in a breech presentation that caused me to measure smaller than what would have been expected. Although I was not planning to have an intervention-free unmedicated labor and birth, I was caught off-guard when, after being in breech presentation for eight weeks, I was scheduled to come in for a cesarean at 39 weeks.
Although the cesarean experience itself went as smoothly as could be expected, after having two more children by unmedicated hospital VBACs with the assistance of doulas, I sometimes can’t resist the urge to compare the difference in the experiences. The one thing that I am fully certain of is that the presence of a doula during my cesarean would definitely have made a beautiful time for my family even more enjoyable. The knowledge and emotional support provided by an empathetic doula before, during and after birth can significantly enhance the experience for mothers having a cesarean.
Here are my personal reflections on situations during my own cesarean when a doula’s assistance would have been invaluable:
1. While waiting my turn: Prior to my scheduled cesarean, the operating room was running behind. A doula’s presence to distract me and help to keep me focused while I waited the additional hour to be wheeled back would definitely have helped to alleviate any pre-surgical anxiety.
2. During the cesarean: I do believe that having a doula present when I got a case of uncontrolled shaking due to the medication would have been valuable. Having someone with me after my spouse and baby were taken to the nursery would have enhanced the experience as well. A doula present during the immediate recovery period when I was alone would have made the room seem a little smaller.
3. In the postpartum period: Hands down, the most difficult part of my cesarean for me was the period when I got back home. Knowing what I know now, the services of a postpartum doula would have dramatically enhanced the overall experience, making a special time for my family even more special.
If you feel that the main demographic for doulas is mothers seeking natural, unmedicated vaginal births, know that cesarean moms benefit greatly from the support of doulas too! Sometimes, the doula is the only factor keeping a mother and her perception of her experience from getting lost in the shuffle of standard hospital routines and policies. It is generally accepted that a doula’s presence can help to reduce the chance of cesarean, but doulas can also greatly increase the chance of a satisfying birth experience in the event of a cesarean.
— LaQuitha Glass, President, International Cesarean Awareness Network