There is so much controversy and opinion around the way women birth their babies. Whether it be a cesarean section (c-section) or vaginal, unmedicated or medicated, home or hospital, doula or not – everyone has their two cents.
We are supportive of however your baby arrives earthside and as a physical therapist who specializes in maternal and child health – respect is part of my clinical ethos and how I provide care to my families. And part of that support is creating an option like a “c-section doula”, it’s not a common but a needed service.
Per DONA International (Doulas of North America) a doula is defined as “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to their client before, during and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”
Another way of explaining this person’s role is as a “travel guide” in a foreign country – the foreign place being pregnancy, birth or postpartum. And there is training specific to a each phase of the motherhood journey:
Prenatal + Birth Doula: education and support in the weeks leading up to the birth experience. And/or the specific time when the person is experiencing the different stages of labor (1st, 2nd and 3rd stage). This is typically a more intense or “hands on” type of doula and each person has their own framework for how they provide support to the pregnant mom.
Postpartum Doula: typically within the first 3 months of postpartum but this could be expanded regardless and each doula is different in what level of service they offer.
Other lesser known type of doula’s: C-section section doula
Prenatal + c-section Doula: a trained professional with advocacy experience who provides varying levels of support using different types of media before, during and after the planned c-section procedure. (see more detail below!)
Loss Doula: a professional trained in support during the end of life stages and processing grief.
Let’s expand on this concept a little more…
This type of support applies to a planned c-section because so often there isn’t an acute care physical therapist or occupational therapist who visits the mom in recovery.
The nursing staff has made sure all of the medical needs are “met” but there still so much fear, anxiety, and pain management that is unaddressed.
As a women’s health professional this is not ok – that’s where a sounding board like a specialized c-section doula can help a mom advocate for her care and set up connections for home as she discharges from the hospital.
How does it work?
Reach out to someone who provides “c-section doula” training in your area and set up a phone call to see if they’re the best fit. Typically any kind of doula has a specific process and amount of visits or time they offer their clients.
The best way is to find a person who seems to share many of the same goals for pregnancy and birth preparation and chat with them!
These are common aspects of the process:
Prenatal Education: physiological birth, pelvic and core health to support an easier recovery post procedure, c-section procedure education
Procedural Support: In person support in the operating room as a support person if needed
Recovery Support: In person support as the patient transitions to the recovery room and baby transitions with them or to a nursery (typically the non birthing parent is following the baby)
Discharge Support: In person support as an advocate during the first 3 days in hospital (time and frequency dependent on agreement with doula prior to procedure)
Other team members that can help support a positive pregnancy, birth and postpartum lifestyle include:
This all sounds wonderful but what if the c-section isn’t planned?
Often the c-section isn’t planned and the mom has labored for hours – that’s a lot of physical exhaustion and physical distress. If there is a traumatic unplanned c-section then that is where a trained maternal healthcare professional would be most appropriate (physical therapist, occupational therapist and/or trauma counselor). Birth trauma processing and understanding wellness practices can be so helpful in those scenarios.
Why wouldn’t the medical staff be the best support person after a c-section?
The hospital staff is there for emergency type situations – we are so grateful for them! They will still support you after your c-section with great care. But a c-section doula is coming to serve you and only you – not all of the mom’s in the entire labor and delivery unit.
A quality c-section doula will be looking at the bigger picture for you, the bigger picture for your baby and helping you interpret the information coming from the hospital staff. When you are encouraged to take a walk around the unit and need tips on how to support breathing with a fresh incision to reduce the pain – your c-section doula is available.
You’re a warrior, mama and having the support you need in those early days feels luxurious. But it’s not – your health is a priority as you recover and a c-section doula can provide that for you!
Kelsey Daniels is a mama of two, wife, and physical therapist who works with pregnant/postpartum mamas and babies in their homes. She loves to share information that supports parents in the early years and especially supports mama’s as they navigate self-advocacy. After their first baby, Kelsey and her husband realized they wanted to try out the desert life and moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Las Vegas valley. Kelsey and her family are always in search of adventure but also value relaxing time at home. A passion for her family, movement opportunities for all as a physical therapist, and easy beauty hacks helped shape her blog as it looks today.