I wish I could take each first time mom that tells me, “oh my husband will be there and my mom. I don’t need a doula” to a real birth where two moms are there (his and hers), other members of the family, friends and a husband that are all exhausted and the labor and birth is taking longer than they expected it to take. Yes this really happened, just a few days ago. First time mom was sent home from the hospital not once but twice. She was having a lot of pre-labor and early labor pains and her family had encouraged her to keep going back to the hospital to get checked.
Sometimes families and new moms and dads forget that babies come when their ready. Doula’s know that and they encourage the mom to have confidence in knowing that her body is working just fine and to just relax. It's pretty normal that many first time moms can have very long labors and births.
I have also spoken with several moms after they have given birth to their first child saying that they really wish they would have had a doula for their first birth. One because her husband was really no help at all, even after birthing classes. Another mom said that her partner got so involved with the family dynamics in the labor room that he almost missed the birth. Oh and let us not forget the exhausted partner who hasn’t slept and is freaking out because he can’t handle watching his or her partner in pain and has no clue what to do next.
You may think that these things will not happen to you. Maybe not. That said I’ve also heard of great partners and families totally supporting moms. Unfortunately I feel like it’s not the norm.
1. Labor is uncharted territory for first time parents.
I don’t care how many birthing classes you went to (and I know you went to at least one, right?), how many you-tube birth videos you have watched, how many ice cubes you have held in your hand and breathed through it, or what your friends and family say that they will be there for you and your partner and you don’t need a doula. Labor is painful. Very painful at times and pushing a baby out of your vagina is no picnic. This is a day you will always remember. Get a doula. They can help you cope with labor, birth, your partner and your family. Get a doula (yes I know I’m repeating myself, but just do it).
2. Doulas know hospitals and how to help you get what you need to have the birth you want.
They know how to teach you to negotiate with the doctor, with the hospital, and how to make the nurses at the hospital your best friend. Yes that is all very important. They know about the hospital that you will be delivering at. They may have heard of your doctor or midwife and can tell you about them. They know about epidurals, pain meds, comfort measures and can answer or get answers to any questions you may have regarding labor and birth. Most of them have given birth themselves. Some have not. All have attended births so they know what there talking about.
3. You want a natural birth.
Did you know that doula’s can be the best part of your birth team besides your partner for a natural birth? The likelihood of you having a natural birth with a doula are higher than without a doula. Why? Doula’s can keep everyone calm and they know some magic! For example doulas can help with;
a. shorter labors with fewer complications
b. reduction in the need for Pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
c. a reduction in the request for pain medication and/or epidurals
d. comfort measures for labor and birth.
Ok seriously doulas can do all of these things and more (kind of like magic, right?). They also can help focus your partner and your family so you can concentrate on relaxing and working through your labor pains. Doula’s are also one of your biggest cheerleader. They know that you can do this, even if you doubt yourself, they don’t doubt you. Your partner may even become a little freaked out. Having a doula can help your partner as well. I don’t know how many times I have helped partners cope with watching someone they love in pain from deep breathing exercises to reminding them to help you breath and hold you when you need it. Doulas are also one of your biggest cheerleaders during birth. Since you have never given birth before, you may be surprised by the intense feelings you can have. They don’t call it the ring of fire because it’s easy. That said, the birth can be the most exciting part of the process. You will see your baby very soon and be able to hold your baby for the first time.
4. I’m getting an epidural, do I still need a doula?
YES. Getting an epidural can be a good option for first time parents. Kind of getting your feet wet in the shallow end of the pool so you don’t have to learn to really swim at the deep end. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Oh but wait. Your home and you’re having back pain and front belly pain and with all this labor I have to be at least 4 centimeters dilated right? It sure seems like I should be. The hospital won’t admit me until I’m at least 4 centimeters dilated. So you get in the car and you go to the hospital. They hook you up to a monitor. Labor pains slow down or stop (yes it happens) and the midwife or doctor check you. Your 2 centimeters and they are sending you home. Oh but wait!! What about the pain. They tell you to go take a warm bath. You are very disappointed but you head home. If you had a doula, they could help you decide when to go to the hospital. You could call them and they would come over and help you with comfort measures, remind you to get in the tub or shower, eat, drink and rest before you ever go to the hospital so you don’t get sent home. The trick with hospitals is to stay home as long as possible in early labor and a doula can help you do just that.
Are you at least thinking about getting one yet? Ok.
So a few hours later, you go back to the hospital. This time it has to be it. Right? They check you again and now your 3.5 centimeters (only 3.5? What?) They finally decide to admit you. Yay. You let the Doctor or Midwife know that you would like an epidural NOW!! Sometimes that happens. Maybe the anesthesiologist is right down the hall with another patient. Yay!! Sometimes there in surgery and it’s going to be at least an hour or more. Good thing you have a doula, right? She can help you and your partner with comfort measures for your labor until the anesthesiologist comes. Relief is in sight. Maybe you can finally get some sleep. What does the doula do while you’re asleep? Encourage your partner to rest and maybe they will be getting rest as well. Did you know that once you have an epidural, you can’t eat. Only clear liquids. No chocolate pudding, yogurt or French fries. Good thing you ate some food at home before you were admitted and received your epidural, right? You can have juice and water though.
When it comes time to push, did you know that they turn down the epidural so you can feel the contractions to push during birth? No? Yes they do. The general rule for this is you need to be 10 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced and at plus 2 station, which means your cervix is wide open and the baby is pretty far down in the birth canal. Then they will have you do some practice pushes. Since you have never experienced this before it can take some time for you to learn how to push since this is your first time. They will turn down the epidural and you will begin to feel the labor pains. They do this so when your body has a natural urge to push, you can feel it so you can work with the contractions. Your doula is there to help encourage pushing along with your partner to help you have an amazing birth.
5. I’m having a cesarean section, do I need a doula?
Yes! Doula’s can really help calm your nerves when you have a C-Section, no doubt about it. If it’s allowed, you can have your doula in the operating room with you and your partner. Then when baby is born, your partner can go with your baby, if needed, and your doula can stay with you. Your doula knows how to help you have the birth you want, for example, skin to skin right after baby is born even after a cesarean. They also can help you begin to breastfeed and help you get settled with you, your baby and your partner after the C-Section.
6. Postpartum help
Doula’s are great for postpartum help. Most if not all doula’s want to see how your doing after you have your baby. They will come by for a couple of hours within the first 2 weeks after your home. They can listen to your birth story, do light housekeeping, cook a meal for you, hold baby so you can take a shower and have a minute to yourself, laundry or whatever else you need. Now isn’t that worth it?
Having a doula is an essential part of your birth team, especially for first time moms. Just the knowing that you have someone on your birth team that knows about labor and delivery, besides the hospital or birthing center, is “a good thing” to quote Martha Stewart. Think you can’t afford one? I wrote about this just last week. 10 Ways to Pay for a Doula. Want to know what to bring to the hospital? Check this out. How about what the hospital will have for you for your birth. Look right here.
If you would like more information on doulas and what they can do for you and your family during pre-natal, labor, birth and post-partum, please contact me and I will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Just click here to leave me a message.
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