Postpartum Doulas: support after cesarean

Guest post by Debbie Young, DONA.

Birth is unpredictable. There is no straight path to the birth of a precious baby so we follow the path wherever it leads. Sometimes that path leads to a cesarean.

When a mother and baby come home after a cesarean there are a few extra things to think about, that road includes a few twists of its own. A postpartum doula can be very helpful in smoothing out this joyful, stressful, exciting, tiring and healing time for the new family. Postpartum doulas, like birth doulas, provide emotional, informational and physical support. They are not medical professionals, but a source of care and comfort. Postpartum doulas are trained specifically to provide support around recovery, mother-infant bonding, breastfeeding and normal newborn development and behaviors. They assist with meals and other tasks in the home as well as part of their support for recovery and bonding.

A postpartum doula is helpful no matter what path the birth takes, but can offer special help and skills for those that are coming home with a new baby and are recovering from abdominal surgery as well. The doula will take into consideration ways the mother can breastfeed the baby to prevent discomfort. Showing the mother how to breastfeed lying on her side will allow less contact with the incision as well as allowing the mother to get more rest. If she prefers to sit up, the doula can demonstrate the football hold for her comfort.

The doula can also help the mother get enough rest to allow her body to heal. Making sure the baby is in the bedroom so the mother doesn’t have to travel to meet her/his needs is important. The doula can set up a changing station very near the mom’s bed so she only has to reach for a diaper instead of trudging down the hall or upstairs.

Some mothers (and family) need help processing the birth, especially if it didn’t turn out as they expected. The doula has a great listening ear and if things are escalating beyond normal processing, the doula can refer the mother to the appropriate specialist to continue to deal with the events of the birth. At the same time, the doula is a stable presence in the home to help the mother know she is not alone.

The length of time a postpartum doula stays with a family varies based on many factors. For a mother who has a cesarean, the doula may be needed for a bit longer to help with basic home care until the mother is back on her feet. Doulas help teach new skills, give encouragement, integrate the new baby into the family life, take on some of the home care needs and, most of all, offer a steady presence for the new family. Many mothers talk about the help of a postpartum doula as a critical factor in bringing a baby home, for a more peaceful, restful, healing time.

Debbie Young is certified as both a birth and postpartum doula. She is a Past President of DONA International as well as a certified childbirth educator. She has been supporting families as a doula since 1988.