Thank you to everyone who has participated in our Virtual Ask the Doulas event! We have really enjoyed hearing your questions, and discussing them in this way. Today’s post will be our last installment of this event in which we will be discussing this question:
“My midwife said that statistically it makes a difference to have a doula present when looking at successful vs. unsuccessful VBACs.” What specifically would a doula do to support a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean).
To start, let’s just discuss what a doula does. A birth doula is a professional support person who is trained to provide assistance to laboring women and their partners in three general areas: physical, emotional, and informational.
Physical support is physical touch that helps a laboring woman to cope with the sensations of labor and birth. Physical support also includes making suggestions for position changes to both ease the pain of labor, and to aid in the progression of labor. A doula can make suggestions on ways that your partner can support you physically, so that you are both an integral part of the process of labor.
Emotional Support is a huge, and often understated part of what a doula does. Having a doula at your side means that you have a familiar face who is simply there to encourage and stand by you no matter what happens. Labor is unpredictable, but unconditional support is available to you through all of the unknown. A birth doula is familiar with the process of labor, and can set many fears at ease with simply reminding you that what is happening is normal and safe.
Informational support consists of helping to answer questions throughout pregnancy and labor, explaining medical terminology, and providing a third-party viewpoint in the heat of the moment. A doula operating within her scope of practice will never give medical advice, but will help you to compile all of the information that you need to make the choice that is right your for family.
Your midwife was right when she said that birth doulas have been shown to improve birth outcomes. Having support from a friend or family member can be helpful as well, but the statistical improvement of birth outcomes is specific to birth doulas because they are not emotionally connected to you in the same way that a mother, sister, or friend will be. This third party support is crucial in times when emotions are running high.
Some of the key things that a doula can do when supporting a family that would like to have a vaginal birth after cesarean, is to help the family to think through many aspects of their experience ahead of time, including the family’s chosen care provider and birthing location. These two factors also play a major role in the success of a VBAC. Depending on when the doula is hired, there will be time to get to know you, and hear about your previous birthing experience. The doula will want to have as much background as possible, and to understand your desires for this birth so that she can best encourage you in those things.
A big part of birth, and especially a VBAC, is leaving any anxiety and fear outside of the birthing room. This is why the emotional support that a doula provides can make a huge difference for laboring women and their partners. When a woman feels safe and supported by her partner and her care team, her levels of oxytocin (Otherwise known as the love hormone, and the hormone that causes labor to begin and continue steadily) increase greatly.
Additionally, a doula has many tools in her physical support tool bag. The positional changes, and hands on support that we offer not only lessons the mother’s pain, but also encourages the pelvis to open, the baby to move down, and the mother to relax instead of tense up. All of these things encourage labor and birth to take place without the need of additional interventions, cesarean included.
Doulas are an integral part of your care team, along with your provider, and your partner. We hope to talk to you soon!
About the author:
Shawna is Co-Founder, Birth Doula, and Childbirth Educator at Third Coast Birth. She loves joining the support community of her clients, and having the privilege of walking with people as their families grow and change.
Her favorite thing about being a doula is bearing witness to new life at each birth she attends. Every birth is so different, but watching a woman bring life into the world is consistently awe inspiring.