To all the mamas birthing during Covid-19
Firstly, to all you pregnant women, you are strong and powerful, and you are pregnant "for such a time as this"(Esther ). This is no easy time to be pregnant and to birth a baby, and I applaud you. I myself faced an unusual amount of fear during the last month of my pregnancy, so I can empathize with any of you who may be fearful during this time. See my last blog post or my resources page to get more information regarding how Covid-19 affect pregnant mamas, babies, and birth.
Many hospitals right now, such as the Wyoming Medical Center here in Casper, are only allowing one support person (usually the partner of the birthing momma) in the room during their birth. I have found with each of my three births, that my other support person was invaluable to my husband and myself. For this reason, I have decided to continue offering my doula services as virtual support for those birthing in the hospitals, until the these regulations change. The Wyoming Medical Center Visitation Guidelines are currently only allowing "One visitor per patient per day (exceptions will be made for comfort care or terminally ill patients)"*. Until they change the rules (see below how you can help that process), I will offer myself as a virtual help for the pregnant mamas who plan on birthing the baby at the hospital.
"But Sarah," I know you're asking, "Is hiring a virtual doula even worth it? How would a doula be able to support and care for a mother in labor without being physically present with the her?"
I am not going to compare the roles that I would perform virtually versus in-person. Obviously, there is no substitute for a doula being with you in the room; however, a virtual doula would be a great asset to your birthing team. Prenatally, I would still offer two appointments, but through either video call or an in-home visit utilizing social distancing when possible and a mask at all times. During that visit, we would cover all the typical discussion points that I have with all my clients, such as discussing all the labor, birthing and pain management options available; discussing risks, benefits and alternatives to medical interventions; creating a birthing plan; discussing the phases of labor, etc.
We would also role-play. Yes, role-play! Birth partners would be present, either on the video call or in-person, and we would practice various massage and acupressure points, different labor and birthing positions, timing contractions, etc. I would want your partner to be comfortable beforehand with these aids so that he could best help you during labor. We would also role-play advocacy and asking questions of medical staff. My aim is for you to be confident in the birthing choices you've made and feel secure in asking questions if that plan is changing.
I would also be available via video call for you during the birth, but no, not during the whole birth - that would be unnecessary...and a drain on your battery. So in early labor, I'd check in every few hours then call more frequently as labor progressed. When active labor starts or is getting more intense, I would remain on the phone with you as long as you want in order to suggest positions we talked about, discuss any questions or fears that were arising and provide any additional feedback you might need.
Postpartum, again, it would look very similar to my in-person services, which include one or two appointments to discuss breastfeeding, debrief the birth, talk about newborn and postpartum care, etc. depending on your level of need or concern.
I know that a virtual doula may not fit with your birthing expectations, but if you want a doula because of or inspite of the crazy circumstances surrounding the current pandemic please contact me. I would be happy to discuss any other questions you might have.
The Association of Women's Health Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses states "AWHONN supports doulas as partners in care and acknowledges their ability to provide physical, emotional, and partner support to women. AWHONN opposes hospital policies that restrict the presence of a doula in the inpatient setting during an infectious disease outbreak." [https://awhonn.org/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/]
So...you can help! Below, I've listed a few resources so you can fight alongside of me to get doulas back in the hospitals!
Here is an online petition that you can sign and then share to get the word out:
Here is a letter penned by DONA (an accredited doula certification organization), asking hospital administrators to allow doulas as essential medical personnel. Feel free to print and use: https://www.dona.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19-Hospital-Letter-Final.pdf
The free online childbirth education class that could help you pregnant mamas: https://evidencebasedbirth.com/birthing-in-the-time-of-covid-19/
Also, for an extra dose of encouragement, read this article that features Angelina Friedman, who survived Covid-19 at 101 years old! (https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/28/us/woman-101-beat-coronavirus-trnd/index.html)