We are currently dealing with an unprecedented situation. One like no other and our top priority at the moment is to keep our community healthy and especially our health care workers that are working tirelessly to aid those affected by this horrendous pandemic.
However, in all of this we are seeing restrictions come out daily which are brought upon us for our own safety and to also lessen the workload on an already overworked health care system.
There has been a restriction in particular that’s been put in place in hospitals that only affects expectant couples and that is one support person only throughout your labour and birth. For some mothers this new restriction is bringing about a lot of anxiety, fear and stress in an already stressful time. The later stages of a mother’s pregnancy in anticipation of a birth is a time of immense change, worry about how the future is going to look like and especially on how she will cope with her birthing day. Some women have chosen to hire a Doula as part of their continuity of care and their assurance that they will be provided with sound advice on comfort measures, ‘tools’ for managing the stages of labour and navigating decision making when it comes to their choices in birth.
The role of a Doula has been shown in studies to increase the chances of the mother having a normal vaginal birth, she is also less likely to have pain medication, intervention and a caesarean. One of the biggest benefits is that mothers are more likely to have a positive experience, their labours are more likely to be shorter and their babies are less likely to have complications in birth.
In the context of everything that’s going on at the moment with covid-19 isn’t that our aim? To not have the expectant mother at the hospital for a prolonged period of time. To not have her medicated so that the doctors can attend to other patients and to decrease the chance of babies having complications in birth which would then necessitate further intervention and the possibility that the baby will need to go to NICU (Neonatal intensive care)
If our aim is the same then why are we taking away a women’s right to at least 2 birth support people at a woman’s birth. Why are making women choose between her partner, Doula or other support person on this monumental life changing day.
Are we also thinking about the extra workload we are posing on our already overworked midwives? They will now need to not only provide medical support to the women in their care but also emotional and physical support. This couple will both be overwhelmed with everything going on and will need that extra pairs of hands, heart and knowledge to guide them. But how is a midwife supposed to do that as well as her job, how can we expect her to?
A client of mine recently did an Instagram video speaking about her concerns around all this and she stated it perfectly by saying, ‘your allowed 10 people at your funeral and 5 people at your wedding and I’m pretty sure birth is on par with those two life events’ I couldn’t agree more! Take all that aside where are women’s human rights in all of this?? Have we forgotten that women should have a choice to choose whom they need and want for their birth. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have published guidelines on caring for a patient with COVID-19, and recommend healthcare facilities follow, “infection control guidance on managing visitor access, including essential support persons for women in labor”, they go on to state, “if a restriction of all visitors is implemented, facilities can consider exceptions based on end-of-life situations or when a visitor is essential for the patient’s emotional well-being and care.” (Interim Considerations for Infection Prevention and Control of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Inpatient Obstetric Healthcare Settings, February 2020) (DONA Intl) I think we can all agree that a Doula falls under that category and 100% a partner does. As there have been talks that like America, we will follow suit and even tighten our restrictions even further and not even allow mothers to bring in their partners into the birthing room. How can this even happen? Have we gone back to the 1950’s where partners weren’t allowed in births and women were then left on their own with no comfort measures in place but pharmacological pain relief?
I think as women we need to voice our opinion about all these restrictions and we need to bring forth some important and valuable questions to the table…
- If we are getting the clear message that being in the vicinity of the hospital at the present time isn’t safe as per most antenatal appts now being conducted via telehealth then why aren’t we putting more funding into low risk women having the option to birth at home.
- Why aren’t we giving mothers the option of having an extra support person in hospital so she can be supported by a Doula if she so wishes as it been shown to reduce the length of labour.
- Are we looking at the long term effects of these new restrictions on women’s emotional and mental well-being? As we know that in Australian 1 in 3 women will walk away from their birth with birth trauma and that can have a profound effect on postnatal depression.
- Are we even looking at this from a human rights issue? The WHO even stated that women should have a companion of choice. Are we giving them that choice?
I have been contacted with so many mothers recently that have opted to take whatever savings they have and find an independent midwife to support them in a home birth as they don’t feel safe in this current pandemic birthing in a hospital. They also feel unsure as to when stricter policies will come into place and they don’t want to take away their right to a Doula as their only continuity of care in their journey through pregnancy and birth.
I am not ignorant to the fact that the world is going through a lot at this moment but we are going to see a new generation come into this world minute by minute and as much as there is chaos happening we need to stop and revere in the wonder that is birth and not discard the women that are going through labour in a worldwide pandemic and still support them and be a voice for change for future generations. We want women walking away from their birth empowered, strong and ready to tackle mothering and not just a survivor.
How can you act as a consumer to bring about change….
Other ways you can enhance change is by calling and writing emails to your care provider, Hospital, MP, Chief Executive Health Officer or Hospital’s Customer Liaison Officer.