Can women who plan to have epidurals still benefit from doula support? I’ve been asked this question several times (I just finished replying to that very question posted today), so I thought I’d go ahead and answer here too. The short answer is YES!
I think I speak for most doulas when I say that I am happy to help any woman to achieve whatever birth experience she wants. Some women go into it knowing that they will probably want an epidural and I totally understand! Since it’s really not a good idea to get an epidural too early in labor, she still has a bit of work to do to get there and I can help with that. Even after she gets an epidural, she and her partner can still benefit from continuous support during labor and after the baby is born and I am more than happy to provide that.
Having said that, research (and personal experience) has shown that women with the support of a doula require less intervention in general – less Pitocin, less epidural anesthesia, less use of forceps or vacuum extraction, much lower c-section rates, etc. In fact, in clinical trials comparing women who had epidurals with women who instead had doula support, both groups rated their decrease in pain as the same (a doula had the same perceived pain-relieving effects as an epidural – without the risk or expense!). I think we women have been asked to give birth without the support we really need and that has led to the need for more and more medical intervention. Maybe all we really need is an extra set of hands to hold, a compassionate, experienced woman to sympathize and to lean on, someone whose sole purpose is to help us have an amazing birth experience that we’ll remember with joy.
That’s the main thing – I want women and their partners to have wonderful birth experiences that empower them to set out on the most demanding of journeys – parenthood! However they choose to get there – I’m here to help!