Planning a Cesarean Birth? 6 Tips and 5 Ways a Doula Can Help.
There is a growing body of research indicating that support from a labor doula is one of the most effective ways to reduce the likelihood of a cesarean delivery1. And it’s becoming more common to have a labor support doula for those seeking an unmedicated birth.
But what if you are planning for a Cesarean Birth?
6 Tips to Help Prepare for a Cesarean
#1. Find a Provider and hospital that is a good fit for you.
Some things to consider when making this decision:
- Do you feel heard and supported by your chosen OBGYN? Are they on board with your wishes for the birth?
- If you want to know what will be happening, during a prenatal visit, ask them to talk you through the surgery.
- Often called a Gentle Cesarean, find out what your doctor and the hospitals polices and procedures are and in what ways are they willing to work with your wishes in the operating room.
- How long will the hospital stay typically be after delivery?
- Talk with your doctor about the typical recovery time for postpartum healing following a Cesarean birth.
#2. Explore options!
While there will be standard policies for this surgery, you may still have choices and options available to you. Take a class, read a book, and talk with providers. We love this article from Childbirth International.
#3. Prepare special moments and experiences.
Consider ways to personalize your birth experience and those early moments as a parent welcoming their new baby. Would you like particular music playing during delivery? Would you like your partner to announce the sex of the baby? Would like skin-to-skin as soon as possible or for your partner to do skin-to-skin with your baby?
#4. Plan for support during your hospital stay.
Make sure you find out the hospital’s policy about who can be in the operating room and recovery room. Usually one partner is allowed into these rooms with you, but sometimes an additional support person can be included. If there are concerns with your baby’s health and they are taken to the NICU, talk about who will go with your baby and who will stay with you. Having another person available to support you during this time can really be helpful, whether it’s a doula, family member, or a close friend.
#5. Expect to have a longer hospital stay with a Cesarean birth.
A typical hospital stay is 3-4 nights. Take advantage of the nurses knowledge and skills to support you and your baby in these early days—they may each have different ideas and suggestions for you to try as you learn what works best for you and baby. If you are planning to breastfeed, ask to speak with the lactation consultation in the hospital or arrange for a private IBCLC to come and visit you during your hospital stay or soon after arriving home. Consider what can you bring from home that will increase your comfort and recovery. For example, bring your own toiletries, socks, eye mask, pillow etc.
#6. Plan to have support once you return home.
Before you head to the hospital to have your baby, connect with professional support to help you prepare for your return home. Or have a list with names and numbers ready to go. These include support groups, postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, therapists, and food delivery services. Because you’re recovering from surgery, your body needs time to heal. Partners are great but they are also adjusting to becoming a parent too. New parents should not be expected to do this on their own—tap into your community, your village, your support network. You can prepare yourself by having conversations and making plans for things like:
- Groceries and Meal Preparation
- Pet Care
- Household support and tidying up or house cleaning.
Let other people support you in these ways, so that you can focus on your baby, yourself and this new version of your family!
5 Ways a Doula Can Help at the Hospital and at Home
Doulas provide expert care, skills and knowledge to the experiences of birth and parenting. They can be a welcome addition to the friends and family you may also have supporting you. Here are some specific ways doulas can support those planning for a Cesarean birth.
#1. Your doula is an evidenced-based resource.
During pregnancy, a doula can support you navigating the questions or concerns that arise, process anything that is coming up for you, provide additional resources, go through what is going to happen, or connect you with other experts. Drawing from evidence-based resources and not just anecdotal stories, your doula will focus on how best to support you for preparing for birth and for parenting.
#2. Your doula will be on call for you should you go into labor before a planned Cesarean.
Even with scheduled plans, spontaneous labor can still happen. Having a labor support doula means having access to that support should something unplanned happen. While your doctor will be your main medical support, your doula will be available to provide physical and emotional support for whatever happens in this birth experience.
#3. Your doula can be an invaluable assistant at the hospital.
They can be with you during preparations before the surgery, talk you through procedures and help you get questions answered, or work with you on relaxation techniques before heading into the operating room. They are also there as a support to your partner before and after the surgery. Some hospitals will allow your partner and a doula into the operating room, others will allow the doula in if your partner goes with baby, and other hospitals do not allow the doula in the operating room at any time. If they are allowed in to the operating room, your doula will be a reassuring presence for you and your partner, can help facilitate early skin-to-skin with you or your partner and baby, or take photographs.
If hospital policy allows your doula to join you in recovery, they can meet you there to talk about how things went and how you are doing right now, provide breastfeeding guidance, make sure your partner has what they need, or communicate with your family.
#4. Your doula remains a resource during those early days of recovery and parenting.
Even during your hospital stay, a labor support doula can continue to support you. A postpartum doula can begin to provide care for your and your family. They can answer questions, liaise with staff on your behalf, provide helpful tips or help you to process your experience as you transition toward returning home.
#5. Postpartum support.
A labor support doula will typically do one postpartum visit once you return home, giving you a chance to continue to connect and receive their support. Postpartum doulas can provide more in-depth and ongoing support for your family. Whether it’s tending to your physical and emotional needs as a new parent recovering from birth, supporting your connection and bonding with your new baby, providing a meal or doing the laundry, your doula is a resource for so many things as you welcome your new baby home.
If you are planning for a Cesarean birth, some preparation and planning can go a long way to feeling confident and supported through this transition to parenthood.
Are you interested in having a labor support doula for your planned Cesarean birth? Birthways offers a special labor support packages just for you! Want to explore postpartum support when you return home?
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1The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) joint statement, 2014