The Benefits of Having a Doula Around for a C-Section

Pregnant woman in a hospital bed holding the hand of a doula

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A doula is trained to help women and their families while giving birth, whether vaginally or by cesarean. The cesarean surgery rate in the United States alone is at just under 33 percent. This means that nearly one in three women will give birth via major surgery. This surgery may be planned in advance or may be done during labor in either an emergent or non-emergent basis. Learn how professional labor support in the way of a doula can help.

The Role of a Doula in a Scheduled Cesarean Sections

You may find that you need to schedule the delivery date of your baby to be born via C-section. The need for this can be for many reasons. If this is how you are giving birth you will still need support from other people. A doula can be the perfect person to help give you this support.

  • A doula can bring in another set of hands and eyes and ears to help you better prepare for your upcoming surgical birth. She can help you get answers to your questions and formulate a birth plan for a cesarean section. Sometimes your doula can even help you by offering you an educational class on a cesarean section.
  • During the period before surgery, your doula can help explain procedures to you and help you get answers to any questions that you have, much like she would during a normal labor setting. Your doula can help you manage painful procedures like the administration of an IV or even the spinal or an epidural for your surgery.
  • Once inside the operating room (OR), your doula will assist you in knowing what is going on by giving you details of whatever you wish to know. Your surgeon and assistants are busy doing the surgery. The nurses are preparing the room for the baby. Your husband or partner is awaiting the baby and, if immediate skin-to-skin contact is not available, may soon go to the warmer to greet the baby. Your doula will be at your side. She can take photos if you desire, particularly after the baby is born. She can remind the staff of any special requests you may have, like letting your husband announce the sex of the baby or to keep a quiet room during the birth.
  • If your baby needs to go to the nursery, your husband can go with the baby. Your doula stays by your side. She can also act as a liaison between the staff and you for getting updates on the baby while you are separated.
  • One important fact to remember about the cesarean is that the baby is born in the first few minutes. The rest of the nearly hour-long procedure is the repair. If your husband is busy with the baby or in the nursery, you would otherwise be alone during this period. Some of the moms I have worked with said having a doula for this period alone was awesome and prevented them from becoming frightened.
  • During the postpartum period, your doula can suggest post-operative comfort measures. She can assist you with any breastfeeding questions you may have or special help you or your baby may require with breastfeeding. Your doula can also help with reminding the staff about your birth plan and special needs you may have.

Even if your doula is not allowed in the operating room, there are still many things on this list that she can do to help you and your partner both before the baby's birth, the day of your baby's birth, and after.

Be sure to talk to each of the doulas you interview about their experience with surgical birth. Ask them to explain how they believe that they could help you during this surgery.

The Role of a Doula in Unscheduled Cesareans

Your doula will be able to provide all of the above services for you should the need for a cesarean come up during your labor. If you have an emergency cesarean, her role, as well as the role of your other support people, may be extremely limited during the actual surgery. However, in the recovery and postpartum periods, she will again be able to resume those functions.

A Word From Verywell

In general, the idea of using a doula for a cesarean, particularly a scheduled cesarean, is not an unusual one. Many couples find that they benefit from the supportive and informative services of this extra set of trained hands during a surgical birth.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.