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For many, the word doula conjures up images of long skirts, Birkenstocks, and “natural birth”. Doulas, however, are for so much more than just supporters of natural birth. Because much of the support that a doula provides is relational and directly impacts the experience of birth, a doula can benefit any birth plan.

We know that doulas for cesarean birth are finally being recognized as a way to make the cesarean birth experience more mother-friendly, but what about epidural birth? We asked some of our favorite doulas how they see doulas being directly beneficial during epidural births. Their answers are awesome. Check it out!

Doulas for epidural birth provide physical support

Some doulas feel that a mom with an epidural benefits even more from a doula than a mom without one. Epidurals can sometimes be part of an unwanted cascade of interventions. A doula can help minimize this so mom can get the pain relief she desires and still have someone to help her with positioning, something otherwise difficult with an epidural.

Cameo Sherman, a Bowie, MD doula says,

“In many ways, a mom with an epidural needs a doula even more. Once a mom gets an epidural and is confined in the hospital bed, the lack of movement can decelerate the labor, potentially causing failure to progress which could lead to a cesarean. As a doula, I have knowledge on ways to help move the mom to assist in the baby’s descent.

Moms with epidurals sometimes feel disconnected from their labor as they can’t feel the contractions. In addition, sometimes all eyes in the room turn to the electronic monitors of the mother. As a doula, I can help the mom stay engaged in her labor by talking to her about her pregnancy and her baby-to-be. I can also be an extra hand in helping support her during pushing.”

Debbe Cannone, an experienced doula in San Diego, CA agrees. She also points out that the specific training a doula has gives her skills that can bring relief and encourage a quicker birth.

“A mother with an epidural needs a doula more. She is confined to her bed which means she’s lost her ability to be upright (using gravity to help the descent of the baby) and mobile (which helps baby navigate her way down and out of the birth path.)

I use a peanut ball to keep her pelvis nice and open to facilitate baby’s descent and I rotate her frequently to mimic the movement that she lost with the epidural. Rest is also important for the birthing stage of labor so I help remind others that she needs to rest, rather than visiting or watching TV just because she can no longer feel her contractions. It’s not party time. It’s still labor & birthing time.

I also remind her that she can request turning the epidural down or off to regain more connection with her body to help with the birthing part of her labor. The use of a mirror and/or touching her baby’s head as it emerges so she has other connections to help the birthing of her baby is something a doula can remind mom of.”

While it is true that a mom with an epidural may not benefit as much from a hip squeeze as some other moms, there is still a lot of physical support that a doula can provide to utilize gravity and keep labor moving.

Doulas for epidural birth provide emotional support

Birth is a transformative life event in all of its forms and variations. Doulas, acquainted with birth and respectful of the emotional impact, help keep birth humane and respectful. They truly help bring the heart back into birth.

Brooke Harralson, a doula in North Fort Worth, TX, says,

“One big, valuable component that a doula provides transcends the type of birth you have- no medication, epidural, cesarean- all women still need and deserve this one thing- reassurance. Emotional support is just as important as the physical support and knowledge of the doula. The constant reassurance you are doing great, and you will in fact get to meet your baby sometime in the near future. Support cannot be undervalued.

Clearly, relational support and emotional reassurance is an important component of all doula support. In fact, we believe that this is one of the main purposes of a doula. The continual support from your doula throughout your pregnancy and birth is part of this reassurance.

A great doula brings everything together for the birthing mom- she provides physical support during the epidural, honors the event, and provides a safe place to talk about all choices related to this birth.

Yes, a woman laboring with an epidural is still a laboring woman! A doula never forgets that all birthing women need the same things: respect, love, compassion, support, and continuity of care.

Should you hire a doula even if you are planning an epidural birth?

Absolutely! You still deserve and can benefit from the support that a doula can bring. Our Birth Boot Camp doulas receive specific training for helping support epidural birth.