Cesarean Awareness Month

April is Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM) and this month, many perinatal organizations are focusing on the impact cesarean birth has on parents and babies. In the USA, the current cesarean rate is just under 32%. While this rate has been slowly declining, many professionals support the belief that nearly half of all cesarean surgeries in the USA are not necessary. The World Health Organization has stated for many years that a cesarean rate of approximately 10 to 15% is saving lives but not doing harm. There are places around the world that do not have adequate access to cesareans, and the maternal mortality rate is higher because of the lack of safe and immediate surgery. In the USA and many other developed nations, people die and experience maternal and neonatal morbidity when cesareans are performed unnecessarily. 

The research on doulas over the years has continued to demonstrate that doulas reduce the likelihood of giving birth by cesarean. And when a cesarean is necessary, whether planned or unplanned, a doula can help their client before, during and after the procedure. Let’s take a look at how a birth doula can support a family who has welcomed their baby (or babies) by cesarean. You can also learn how a postpartum doula can support a family who birthed by cesarean here. Here is information on how a postpartum doula supports a family after a cesarean birth to share with clients and families as well.

How a birth doula supports a cesarean birth

1. Prenatal planning and support

A doula can help their clients to prepare a birth plan for a planned or unplanned cesarean.  The doula can share some preferences that help the family to honor their baby’s arrival in a way that feels meaningful to them during the cesarean. A birth doula brings a wealth of knowledge about options that parents may wish to consider and discuss with their health care provider if a cesarean birth is necessary that helps the experience be both satisfying and significant.

2. Calming presence pre-surgery and during the procedure

Once admitted to the hospital and is awaiting surgery, nerves and jitters can creep in and create anxiety and fear. Medical procedures and delays may add additional stress to the situation. A doula can provide immediate help with distractions, calming techniques, and guidance on relaxation while the family is prepared for the surgery. Going into a cesarean prepared and confident is a great gift to the experience.

During the procedure, a birth doula can take pictures and help the family remain present and engaged in welcoming their baby. A doula can also assist the baby-parent dyad in getting skin to skin as soon as possible in the operating room or in recovery. If needed, a doula can help amplify the voice of the birthing person so that their immediate needs are heard and met.

3. Remain with the birthing person if baby goes to the NICU

If a situation develops where the newborn needs to be taken to the neonatal intensive care unity immediately after birth, the partner or support person is free to go immediately with the baby while the doula remains with the birthing mother.  The doula can facilitate communication between the parents who may be in different areas of the hospital (recovery and NICU) and can assist in requesting that the family be together in the NICU as soon as possible after recovery.

4. Immediate lactation support

A birth doula can assist in initiating newborn feeding as soon as the baby starts to show cues and the parent is ready. Suggestions of supportive positions and help with those first latches can help make the feeding comfortable and positive right from the start. If the baby needs to be taken to the NICU, a birth doula can assist in hand expression or pumping in order to obtain a supply of colostrum that can be taken to the baby as soon as possible.

5. Process the birth experience postpartum

During the postpartum visit, a birth doula can listen to the family as they process the birth experience. It is not uncommon for there to be many emotions that come up after a cesarean birth, whether planned or unplanned, especially if it was emergent. A birth doula can offer resources such as support groups, counselors, lactation consultant, physical therapists, massage therapists, postpartum doulas and more that can help recovery, both emotionally and physically in the fragile first days and weeks.

A birth doula provides immeasurable help at a cesarean birth

It is not unrealistic to state that many families will give birth by either a planned or unplanned cesarean. When a cesarean birth is the way a baby comes into the world, a birth doula can be a critical member of the birth team, supporting the family prenatally, before, during and immediately after the birth and then at the postpartum visit. Doulas support all types of birth and can help families have a satisfying and positive cesarean birth experience. Consider downloading a pdf version of the infographic to share with families.