Amid the outbreak of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, the country and the world are making major changes. In efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, the country has closed schools, canceled major entertainment events, and recommended limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people. Hospitals and doctors offices have also put into place a number or rules and regulations to keep their facilities a safe place where people can get help as opposed to them becoming a dangerous place to visit.

Limited Birth Companions at Hospitals

Families who are expecting a baby in the next several weeks are facing a number of changes to their birth plan, due to changes in hospital policies. The most impactful is a policy which is limiting labor and deliver patients to 1 single guest, or support person, allowed with them. For many women, this means choosing between their husband or partner, their mother, maybe a friend, and possibly even a doula.

As a birth doula myself, I would like to say that hospitals are considering birth doulas as a legitimate part of the birth team, but in most instances this is not the case. Despite the fact that the presence of a birth doula’s is proven to reduce cesarean rates and increase the rates of spontaneous birth, birth doulas a not being granted the courtesy.

Many women pay hundreds or thousands of dollars and spend a significant amount of time building a bond with their doula. They develop a birth plan that not just includes, but works best with a doula. When told that they have to chose between their partner or doula, it becomes very difficult. Do they do without their doula or consider asking other people to step aside? Understandably, most women will end up choosing their partner (who might be the other parent of the baby) to be by their side during labor & deliver.

How Your Doula Can STILL Support You

If you are facing the tough choice of the 1 person who will be by your side, you should know that there is still a lot that a doula can do for you even if they are not this person.

Prenatal Visits

Nearly all birth doulas include one or more prenatal visits as a part of their service. During these visits, doula’s get to know their clients and begin the process of providing physical and emotional support. When your doula cannot be with you during labor, they can still be with you prior labor.

If you already entered into an agreement with a doula and were told afterwards that they cannot be in the labor and delivery room, ask about additional prenatal visits. During these visits, your doula may be able to provide additional advise to your partner who will be with you. Of course it would not be possible for a doula to pass all of her knowledge, and they should not be expected to, but they may be able to provide some very valuable insight and it could never hurt to ask! In order for this to work, you need to plan ahead. If you are expecting, start think about this option NOW!

Alternative Communication During Labor

Luckily, we live in a day and age where communication is easier than ever. In addition to pregnant visits, you might be able to bring a phone or tablet to call or video chat over. If you set up a video chat correctly, a doula can see what is going on and provide guidance on how to support the laboring person in the moment. Virtual communication is wonderful as it is near impossible to prepare for every possible turn the unpredictability of birth can bring. Also, an experienced doula can look at a woman and have a good idea of where she is in the labor process.

Early Labor Support

The goal for lots of women that plan on a hospital or birth center birth is to labor at home as long as possible before making their way to the birth location. This allows the birthing person to labor in the comfort of their home, free to move, eat, sleep, and bathe as they desire. Even if your doula cannot go into the hospital with you, your doula may be able to support you at home and during the car ride to the hospital. The presence of the doula at home may even help the laboring person stay at home longer before making the decision to go in to the hospital.

As a last piece of advice, I always recommend that parents take a childbirth education course. This is more important now than ever. During these classes you may learn about comfort measures, what to expect, how to relax, and how to advocate for yourselves. Although I am not yet offering CBE classes, feel free to contact me for recommendations on classes. Yes, there are online classes!

-Doula Serene