Supporting Mamas with Epidurals
One of the most common questions I get during interviews with potential clients is "I think I'd like to get an epidural, are you okay with that? What would you still help with?" Of course I'm okay with that! My primary objective is that my clients feel supported in making informed decisions that feel right for them. That's the beauty of hiring a doula - my job is NOT to pressure you into choosing a certain type of birth. My job is to listen to you and help you develop your own vision of what will feel best for you and your family.
Just because you're planning to get an epidural doesn't necessarily mean that labor & birth will be easy. Your body is still doing a tremendous amount of work -- you may still feel hot & cold & hungry & scared & tired & emotional. In short, you'll still need support. Here are a few things that I often find myself doing to help support mamas with epidurals.
Support During Epidural Administration
Some partners can feel squeamish during the epidural administration and may not be comfortable being the primary support person during that process. I can hold your hand, help you breathe through any contractions that you may have during the administration process, and make sure that you understand exactly what's happening throughout the whole process.
Emotional & Physical Support Through Contractions
I like to explain to my clients that no two epidurals are the same. Many women expect immediate relief after getting an epidural, but the truth is that the epidural usually takes about 30 minutes to fully kick in. And even then, you may feel totally numb and comfortable, or you still may feel the contractions but with smaller peaks or shorter duration than before. Everyone reacts differently to medication, and if you have a light epidural & are still experiencing discomfort with each contraction, I can help you work through those contractions by using breathing coaching, keeping you comfortable with cold/hot washcloths, massage, reminding you to drink water, or holding your hand. I can also help facilitate conversations with the anesthesiologist and nurses if you think you may need a bolus to make your epidural stronger.
Let Your Labor Support Person Rest
The other thing I often notice is that partners like to take naps after the epidural administration. The intensity of contractions is often ramped way down from before, and partners may be exhausted at this point after a long labor and in need of some rest. But you may not feel comfortable enough to sleep. I can be your primary support person during this time period to allow your partner to recharge, get some food, and come back with a second wind.
Keep Your Body in Optimal Positioning
It can be difficult to move your legs once the epidural is administered, but there are still lots of ways we can keep your body in a good position to help bring baby down. I can work with your nurse to make sure that we're switching positions every 30 minutes or so, keeping your hips in the proper alignment to allow baby to properly engage, and make sure that we're keeping your pelvic opening wide by using peanut balls and pillows to prop your legs.
Support During Pushing
I can also help during the pushing phase by holding your leg up, taking precious pictures/videos, providing encouragement & guidance, & keeping your partner calm.
I hope that this shed some light on the ways that I can help mamas with epidurals! Sending you love & support, whatever you decide.
Claire Baker Madison Doula