#1 Less chance of developing a fever
One of the possible side effects of epidural anesthesia is developing a fever. The longer the epidural is in, the more chance of the mother’s temperature rising too high during labor.
Mother developing a fever in labor means that Baby gets a fever, and there is more chance that they will be separated at birth. She will also need antibiotics (since there is no way to tell if the fever is from the epidural side effect or an actual infection).
See if you can delay the epidural (wait until you are in active labor or 5-6 cm dilated)! The doula will help you by assisting with comfort measures at home and/or when you arrive at the hospital. Therefore you can go a bit longer than you planned without the epidural, reduce the overall time the epidural is in, and reduce your chance of getting a fever.
#2 Emotional support
Even after a mother has received an epidural, she still needs constant emotional support. She may not be prepared for the sense of detachment that accompanies the much needed pain relief! She will need conversation, reassurance that everything is going well, and simply someone to be there. If it’s been a long labor, and the partner needs to step out for a meal or take a nap, hiring a doula will insure that the mother is never left alone. The nurse and doctor/midwife will check on the mother intermittently, but a doula offers continuous support to keep the mother from feeling a sense of abandonment.
#3 The mother still needs physical support too.
Even though she can no longer feel the contractions, a woman who has received an epidural still has some work to do. She should continue to change positions every 20-30 minutes in order for her labor progress not to slow down. Changing positions can also prevent the baby from getting “stuck” and lower the chances of a cesarean. If Mom is moving, then Baby will be able to make any needed shifts/position changes to navigate the birth canal more easily.
Of course Mom may need a nap, but after some rest she will need help to change her position. The doula has the expertise and training needed to help with this. She also can help with any other uncomfortable side effects of the epidural, such as itchiness, trembling, or chills.
This article was written by Abi Schoonover, Birth Doula
Simkin, Penny. The Birth Partner, Boston: The Harvard Common Press, 2013, pp. 281-287.
Featured image from the article “Epidural pain relief for labor“