When professional doulas first grew in popularity, it was assumed they only attended natural births. Now, however, many are learning about using a doula for a high-risk birth.
Unlike the assumption mentioned above, doulas attend all types of births. While a doula is a huge asset in having a desired and planned unmedicated, natural birth, they offer services to all!
In fact, if you’re facing a high-risk birth, hiring a doula can be invaluable. Being at risk for complications or needing medical support during your birth does not mean you can’t have a positive birth experience. Professional and continuous labor support can help you have an empowering birth regardless of how things unfold.
What Does A Doula Do At A Hospital Birth?
Many incorrectly assume doulas only attend homebirths or birth center births. However, doulas also provide support in the hospital. In fact, many doulas attend more hospital births than any other location simply because most US women still birth in the hospital.
For families planning a hospital birth, a doula:
- Provides support and resources in birth planning
- Helps with understanding birth options during prenatal consult
- Is a continuous labor support while the medical team is in and out
- Reminds clients of their options, preferences, etc.
- Offers emotional, practical, and physical support
- Aids in comfort measures
- Helps in understanding medical terms, options in the moment, and what is happening
- Supports breastfeeding initiation
- Offers support in processing the birth experience
- Is available for postpartum support
Doulas provide excellent support regardless of your birth location. During a hospital birth, they do the above while helping to create a personal and positive experience in an otherwise medicalized setting. Having a hospital birth, needing medical support, or wanting pharmacological pain relief does not exclude anyone from having doula support.
What Are The Benefits of A Doula For A High-Risk Birth?
Facing a high-risk birth could mean a physically challenging labor. It also often means an emotionally challenging labor. Being high-risk can be scary, stressful, and even traumatic.
While a doula may not be able to change the health circumstances, they can help with the physical, emotional, and stressful challenges. Having continuous professional support during a high-risk birth can mean being reassured often.
The continuous support focuses on your mental wellness and helps support your birth partner as well. When a birthing person faces a high-risk birth, it can be a stressful moment for the partner. Having a doula ensures you are both receiving adequate support to reduce potential emotional trauma.
Benefits of a doula for a high-risk birth include:
- Knowledge of comfort measures and positioning even with epidural and monitoring wires
- Continuous emotional support
- Physical support safe for the medical situation
- Practical support, grabbing beverages for you or partner, giving partner a break, etc.
- Helping to explain what to expect and what is happening
- A doula can offer support for the mother if the partner needs to go with the newly born baby
- Provide updates about baby to mom in the event of separation
- Help with initiating breastfeeding or pumping
- Physical support in the immediate postpartum hours
- Emotional support and processing after birth
Using A Doula After A High-Risk Birth
While birth doulas spend the bulk of their support at your birth, they provide invaluable prenatal and postpartum support. Following a high-risk birth, postpartum support can be vital.
Whether you have a c-section, vaginal birth, or assisted vaginal birth, you will need time to heal. A birth doula can help you plan for postpartum healing, provide some practical support, and might provide postpartum doula services (as a separate service).
For women who initially hoped for an unmedicated birth, especially an out-of-hospital birth, processing a high-risk birth can be challenging. A doula can help in many ways with this including:
- Being an ear and offering support
- Referring to a professional counselor familiar with the reproductive years as needed
- Help you with bonding such as through rebirthing ceremonies, herbal baths, milk baths, and more
- Support you in creating a safe space to heal from birth
- Help you understand postpartum healing
- Support you in navigating postpartum medical complications, NICU stays, etc.
- Help you understand typical newborn behavior
A doula becomes your guide into a potentially challenging birth. They offer you support, encouragement, help you know what to expect, and help your process after. Regardless of where you give birth and your risk level, a doula provides invaluable support.