Childbirth can be scary no matter how you're bringing your baby into the world. The idea of having a woman with you who has been through it and can assist you is quite alluring, which is why so many people hire doulas during their pregnancy to be there with them during birth. But if you're having a cesarean, can you have a doula during a C-section?
Both the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recognize that there are real benefits for the mother to have a doula present during her birth and postpartum. Doulas provide a stable support system to the mother and help to keep the mother comfortable and informed throughout the journey to motherhood. Their jobs are distinct and non-clinical. They add a measure of safety and encouragement in a difficult time for a woman, and that sense of safety has been shown to lead to better birthing outcomes for the women who are fortunate enough to have their doula attend their birth.
However, when it comes to surgical births, their ability to be there to assist, is, more often than not in my area, restricted by the hospital performing the C-section. This is fairly standard with the exception of single mothers or mothers whose partners could not be present for the birth. (Shout out to our military wives. You rock.) In that case, can you have a doula during a C-section? Most often, yes, according to DONA International.
However, most hospitals, including the four I spoke with in New York City, only allow one person in the room with you if you're having a C-section. On the West Coast, this isn't the case as often.
I spoke with Angie Hotz, doula and designer of the Everyday Badass Affirmation card deck (possibly the funniest birth aid I've ever seen), and she tells Romper "My support is continuous, even if belly birth is how baby arrives. I help them to remember what they have on their birth plan, what their options are, and when to speak up to say what they want and need. I narrate what is going on and what to expect for both mom and partner, and, if she is alone, then I am there to help hold baby to her chest during repairs and recovery."
But Hotz notes that if your partner is there and goes to be with the baby during your surgery, she stays with you, holds your hand, and narrates what she sees and hears going on around both of you and what to expect. "Everyone gets a person to hold hands with. I take lots and lots of photos, and I have some amazing photos of belly births! We talk about cesarean options during our prenatal meetings so in case its the last tool in the tool box to use, they know what to expect for the procedure and care."
Hotz says that she has been allowed in the OR with her families all but once. "If I am not allowed in the OR, I wait with family and reassure them and often explain what to expect. I'm there to offer breastfeeding support when everyone is back in their room, too."
There's a lot a doula can do to help you prepare for a C-section and for your aftercare, as well. They can discuss your birth plan with your nurses, help you find a calm place in your mind before going into surgery, and help you cope and heal afterwards.
You'll have to speak to your OB-GYN and hospital to determine how much your doula can be involved in your C-section, but if you've worked with her in the prenatal period, you'll probably still want her around after surgery. Just know that she's adaptive and flexible — she's there for you, in any capacity.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries: