I don’t care about how you want to give birth. Read that again and again and imagine me saying it out loud to you. Now read it one more time. It’s true – I really don’t care about how my clients want to give birth. What I do care about is that my clients get to give birth the way they want to. I care about that very, very much. In fact, my entire job is supporting what my clients want to do. Nothing else matters. Drugs or no drugs, water birth or cesarean birth, doulas are there for support and to ease partners into their new roles as parents. Of course I have my own opinions and beliefs about how I would give birth, but those are mine and I’m not going to share them! Sometimes I think people think doulas are some kind of natural childbirth Nazis. And this post is my attempt at showing those people that there is more to doula-ing than meets the eye, and that everyone can benefit from a doula, even birthers who choose to have an epidural. Not all epidurals are created equal. I can help you make it a better epidural.
My role, once I’ve given you the evidence-based information you’ve requested about the use of epidurals for pain management in childbirth, is to give you tools during your birth to help labour continue to progress. Of course, despite what pop culture may tell you, I am not a vaginal Gandalf. I can’t make a cervix magically open, or prevent labours from stalling. But I can try! So, without further ado…
Your Better Epidural
- Request a walking epidural. A walking epidural is a combination of a lower-dose epidural with a narcotic. The reason why they’re better epidurals is that they allow the birther to remain upright and physically active, which is known to contribute to the progression of labour. Walking epidurals don’t always work the way they’re supposed to, so even if you do request a walking epidural, there’s a chance that it might not be effective and you won’t be able to walk. Not all hospitals have the capability to provide walking epidurals, either, but it’s still very much worth asking about them.
- Use a rebozo. Have your doula (me!) teach you about rebozo techniques for epidurals. This is something you can even bring up in your initial interview – “Hi doula, nice to meet you, what do you know about rebozos?”. A rebozo is a long woven scarf that is used for many things in Central and South American countries. One time when it’s immensely useful is during birth. It can be used for relaxation techniques, labour progression, pain relief, pushing, getting support from your partner, and so much more. Oh, and using one just might allow you to have a better epidural!
- Practice rest and relaxation techniques before the birth and in early labour. The least talked about component of birth is the mind-body connection, and yet it’s one of the most important (maybe even THE most important) facet of natural childbirth. Just because you get an epidural doesn’t mean the importance of this connection goes away. Calming your mind and letting your body take over is still a hugely important task, and one that an epidural will help you focus on. Your partner and your doula can help with this too!
- Give yourself time, and ask questions of your care provider. Develop a dialog! What are the risks? What are the benefits? Are there alternatives? What’s your soon-to-be-parent intuition telling you? What would happen if you waited and did nothing? And if you don’t know what questions to ask to set your mind at ease, I’ll coach you along.
- Hire a doula. (You didn’t think I’d forget this one, did you?) Someone who is experienced in the birth setting and can provide non-biased support is a huge asset during epidural births. Doulas have the unique ability (luxury, maybe!) of being able to research new advances in natural childbirth and other techniques to mitigate risk factors for their clients. We can remind the birther and/or the partner about things they talked about in prenatal visits, or about issues that happened during previous births. Or provide suggestions based on previous births and/or knowledge. We are the fairy godmothers who think of everything and can whisper it all in your ear!