Texas County Memorial Hospital has expanded its policies of the surgery and obstetrics departments to allow professional doulas into the operating room with their clients during a Cesarean-section.
A doula provides support to a pregnant woman during pregnancy and labor and after delivery of the baby. The word “doula” is derived from ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves.” Professional doula services are available in the Ozarks for women seeking additional support during pregnancy and after delivering their baby.
“At TCMH we are patient experience driven, and a doula can be part of making a great patient experience,” said Angel Watkins, TCMH obstetrics department director.
Watkins said professional doulas are accepted as part of birth plans at many hospitals, but it’s rare that doulas are allowed in the operating room during Cesarean-sections.
“The C-section is typically viewed as a surgery, and only the father or one additional support person is allowed in with the mother,” Watkins said.
Last summer, TCMH became the first hospital in the area to perform “gentle C-sections” during non-emergency Cesarean sections. The gentle C-section is also part of a patient-centered experience at TCMH.
“We support our patients’ birth plans as long as their plans are safe. We recognized that doulas can provide support for the patient inside the operating room as well as in a non-surgical delivery,” Watkins said.
Summer Thorp-Lancaster, professional doula and owner of Summer Birth Services in Rolla, said the move to approve doulas in the operating room is very positive for families.
“TCMH is leading the charge for patient centered birth experiences in a low resource area,” Thorp-Lancaster said. “The physicians, midwife and nurses at TCMH are passionate about the care they provide their patients, and it’s phenomenal.”
Summer Birth Services is one of two professional doula services in the Ozarks. Thorp-Lancaster has two teams of two doulas and a certified lactation counselor available to area clients.
“We are a tour guide for birth,” Thorp-Lancaster said. She said half of her clients are first-time moms that don’t know what to expect, and the other half of her clients have experience with childbirth and prefer the extra care available with a doula.
According to Thorp-Lancaster, typical doula service includes scheduled prenatal visits with the client. The doula attends the labor and delivery of the client and continues to provide service to the client for the first few weeks following delivery.
“One of our jobs is to focus on the well-being of the entire family during the labor and delivery process,” Thorp-Lancaster said. “We try to bridge the gap between the patient and the care provider so that everyone is communicating with each other during the birth process.”
Thorp-Lancaster said that because doulas focus on the communication between the woman giving birth, her care providers and her spouse or labor partner, there is typically and increase in satisfaction in the overall birth experience.
“Birth matters,” Thorp-Lancaster said. “I know from personal experience that when we give support, mom ultimately feels more confident.”
According to Thorp-Lancaster, a doula takes care of mom, assists her client in communicating a birth plan to the care team and provides support to the spouse or other members of the labor support team. “We try to make sure there is never a break in the care being provided to mom,” Thorp-Lancaster said.
Summer Birth Services does provide doula support to women that are having planned Cesarean sections, too.
“There is a misperception that doulas are only for natural birth,” Thorp-Lancaster said, “But we are pretty valuable no matter your birth plan.”
Thorp-Lancaster said that the hardest work for a doula is the work before and after birth.
“We work one-on-one with our clients so we understand their birth plan,” Thorp-Lancaster said, “and we work closely afterward to provide encouragement, advice and support following delivery.”
Watkins said doulas providing services at TCMH need to have and show their professional doula training. According to Watkins, TCMH will make efforts to accommodate and make room for a doula in the operating room, but there may be times when it’s not possible for the doula and the partner to both be present in the room.
“We want to provide the women that deliver at TCMH the freedom of choice with their birth plan,” Watkins said. “Bringing a doula into the OR is another way to help our patients have the birth experience they desire.”