March 24, 2017
One of the choices that many pregnant women who are having a vaginal birth get to make is whether or not to have an unmedicated or medicated birth. For most that boils down to this simple question: do I want to get the epidural or not?
While weighing this question, many women are also considering their options for support in general during labor, which includes the option to hire a professional Labor & Birth Doula (or not).
Although nowhere in the definition of a doula are the words "vaginal, unmedicated birth only," there seems to be underlying belief that the choice is either/or. You can either hire a doula to help you through an unmedicated birth, or you can get an epidural, but not both.
Here's the thing, though: doulas can't replace an epidural. Doulas do a great many things for women during labor, but I don't know a single doula that will knock you out from your waist down (and I doubt that you would even want to know a doula that would).
An epidural is one of many tools in the toolbox of modern medicine. It is a wonderful option for some women, and has helped countless women through many different circumstances in childbirth. As a doula I have respect for the epidural and the options it has brought to women in the birthing space.
If an epidural, though, is a tool in the toolbox, then the doula is like the all-around handy(wo)man who can work with the tool to better enhance your labor and delivery experience. A trained and professional doula can give you tips and suggestions for working with your body even after the epidural to continue the progress of labor, provide reassurance about what is normal, and cheer you on as you bring your baby into the world.
And sure, you can totally DIY it. You can go through your labor and birth with your epidural and no doula. (Lots of women do!) But sometimes you just know that there are some things for which you would like a little extra guidance from a professional. And that's where the doula comes in. Not as a replacement, but as an enhancement.
The epidural is a medical tool for a specific setting and set of circumstances, but your doula? She's a non-medical asset that will follow you no matter where or how you choose to give birth. The epidural removes some sensation, but your doula? She can make you more comfortable through any birth experience. The epidural eventually wears off, but your doula? She's in it for the long haul. Through your pregnancy, through your labor and delivery, through the postpartum.