Mamas on Bedrest: Can’t Do What You Want to Do? Consider Hiring a Doula

February 23rd, 2012

Ugh! I’m having a week where I can’t get done what I want to do. It seems like everytime I sit down the phone rings, or there is some “quickie” emergency that I need to tend to. Add to that my general feeling of inertia and I’m having a less than productive week.

I realize that many of you are probably thinking, “Well at least you CAN do those things that you need to do! I can’t do what I need or want to do because I’m on bed rest!”

I hear you sisters! Bed rest is no fun. It’s frustrating, boring, a means to body aches and at times absolutely mind-numbing. Add to that the time that is sucks up from your friends, family and obligations and it’s enough to make the strongest of women batty. I have heard from countless women that they are increasingly depressed by the fact that they don’t have their nurseries ready, their existing children aren’t getting the attention they would normally receive and that they are worried that their jobs/careers may suffer as a result of bed rest.

Ladies, you aren’t going to be able to do this on your own. You need help. If you are one of the lucky ones with friends and family close by, part of a close knit neighborhood or faith community, you are way ahead of the game. But if you are like I was, you are in a new community where the neighbors are not so outgoing. You haven’t established a connection with a community of faith and in a nutshell, you are on bed rest and you are on your own. In addition to being stressful from a health care standpoint (if there is an emergency, is there someone available who can get you immediate medical attention) there is a huge psychological component. Women with high risk pregnancies are at increased risk of developing perinatal anxiety/panic disorders and depression. Don’t try to go this alone! And while I am a staunch advocate of online communities (KeepEmCookin.com, BetterBedrest.org and Sidelines.org) if you need help around your house getting things done, consider hiring a doula.

I can hear the collective gasps. “But don’t you do many of the same things that doulas do?”

Yes, this is very true, but I am in Austin, TX and I can only serve women in the Greater Austin area. Yet, at least once a week I get a call, e-mail or tweet from a woman (or loved one of a woman) on bed rest who needs help and can’t find someone in her area to help her. Ante Natal Doulas, while a true subset of doulas, are in short supply. Yet, I often suggest that women ask doulas in their areas if they’d be willing to perform some of their post partum duties in the prenatal period. According to Doulas of North America (DONA):

“Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.”

This is especially true of high risk pregnant women on bed rest. Having someone who will attend to mama’s needs specifically will go a long way to keeping mama calm and stress free and on to delivering a healthy, full term infant. Women who have doula supported pregnancies and labors (according to DONA):

  • tend to have shorter labors with fewer complications
  • have reduced negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • have reduced need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • have fewer requests for pain medication and/or epidurals

Couples and families who have doula support:

  • Feel more secure and cared for
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
  • Have greater success with breastfeeding
  • Have greater self-confidence
  • Have less postpartum depression
  • Have lower incidence of abuse

I’d love to serve every woman that calls, writes or tweets to me, but it is simply physically impossible. When women ask, “What can I do?” I have often said, “See if there are doulas in your area (DONA has a membership list) and hire a doula.”

Inevitably, the issue of funds comes up. With women being “out of work” and not having their customary income, hiring help is often the last thing on a mama’s mind. But I invite you all to consider this. Care for a preterm labor and delivery as well as for a premature infant that spends even 1 day in the NICU will quickly reach into the thousands of dollars, not all covered by insurance. A doula to help you in your home and to offer reassurance and support may cost $500.  You’ll also receive the aforementioned tangible and intangible benefits. Finances always make decisions complicated. In this case, I encourage you to consider not just the immediate output of cash, but the potential long term consequences of not getting the help that you need.

If you are looking for bed rest support in the Austin area, we’re here for you. We have a several support services from throughout the US listed on our Resources Page. DONA also has an international listing of doulas.

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