These sentences together surprise many people. But, I want to remind them of what my job is: I provide unbiased emotional, physical and educational support to families, before, during and after pregnancy. And sometimes, the support needed during birth includes pain relief like epidurals.
My clients sometimes know that they want this support in advance, because they’re concerned about too much pain in labor. Their goal may be to get an epidural as soon as it’s available, because they want to enjoy their labor experience without feeling any pain at all. Or perhaps they’ve talked to their providers and want to labor until a certain point, and then choose some pain relief.
Other clients change their mind during labor. Their birth is taking longer than they were prepared for, they’re becoming fatigued, or the contractions don’t feel like what they’d imagined and have become overwhelming.
Doula support can be invaluable in either of those situations. Here’s how:
1. I ask all of my clients what their plans are for pain management. If they’re open to talking about different scenarios, I include this in our conversation about their birth goals.
This way, clients who want to prepare for this possibility in advance, have the opportunity to ask questions and make plan A, B and C. And those who choose not to discuss an epidural know that, should they need it later, I’ll support them.
2. Since the vast majority of births involve some time during early labor without medication, I talk all of my clients about ways to cope with contractions. Whether it’s distracting themselves, positions to feel relief, visualization or other techniques, it’s helpful to know what to do before the epidural lessens the sensations of labor.
3. If your birth place allows it, I can stay with you while you receive the epidural. A support person in the room can lessen any nerves about the process, which involves remaining steady and still possibly while in pain. If a birth partner or doula cannot be in the room, then a nurse will usually fill this role.
4. I answer any questions about medications with factual, unbiased information.
So I answer questions honestly, and advise them to check with their provider about concerns and procedures. I don’t believe in using fear to persuade people away from medicine, OR pretending that a side effect doesn’t exist. Just the facts, because I trust their judgement. This is true whether we’re talking before a birth, or during labor.
5. After a client receives an epidural, I’m there to get them water, help with positioning, keep them company. Or I can give them time to rest (which is usually very much needed). And I’m there to coach them during pushing, and congratulate them when they meet their baby.
I think of epidurals as a valuable tool. And I’m always thrilled for my clients when they get the births they want, and enter parenthood with confidence.
There are lots of ways to have a good birth, and getting an epidural is definitely one of them.