Woman in labor with an epidural for pain relief in childbirth

Laboring woman with an epidural

You’re not wrong. No one needs a doula. Women have given birth for millennia without the aid of continuous labor support, in many different ways. Whether you choose to have a doula or not, I am confident that labor will always end in a baby emerging from your body.

But let me paint you a picture. You wake up thinking you might be in labor. You feel a lot of pressure, um…down there. You are pretty sure what you are feeling are contractions. Your back is a little achy. And you’re excited! After about 8 hours of this, you get your carefully-packed hospital bag and you make your way to labor and delivery. You check in at the desk, fill out the paperwork, get placed in a room, only to have a nurse tell you that you are not dilated at all and that you will need to go home until active labor begins.

WHAT??? This happens? Yeah, it does…a lot.

Many people planning on an epidural don’t realize that their hospital may not admit them prior to 4cm dilation and that even if they do, they will likely not administer that epidural until active labor has begun. Sometimes a laboring mother doesn’t need help managing pain before active labor begins…but sometimes she does!

Let me finish painting that picture. After the hospital sends you home, you call your doula. She comes to your house, shows your partner a few tricks that make the contractions more manageable, and you get a good night’s rest. The next morning, she meets you at the hospital and you are found to be 4cm dilated! Your doula massages your back for awhile, and when the tricks aren’t helping the contractions anymore, she suggests that maybe now is a good time to get your epidural. Your doula helps you position yourself in the bed and suggests to your partner how to help you do some movements to keep labor going to avoid the need for pitocin. A few hours later, you feel a deep pressure and it is time to push your baby out! While your doctor or midwife leaves immediately after your birth to get to the next laboring woman and your nurse is busy doing clinical checks on you and your baby, your doula is present for the next hour or so while you and your partner bond with this new life, able to answer questions, help you get started feeding your baby, and offering her constant support.

That’s the value of non-judgmental doula support.


About Kate Herzel

Kate Herzel is the co-owner of Heartland Doulas alongside Stacy Ash, and together with their combined 20 years of experience and 7 doulas, they help people have really amazing birth and postpartum experiences. In her spare time, Kate enjoys cooking with her kids, brewing beer with her husband, and entertaining for her friends.

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