What a weird, wild year this has been. So much has changed that it is actually difficult for me to remember what it was like to go to the mall or grocery store without having to think about masks, hand washing, and social distancing. Giving birth has changed too. Oh, babies still come in the same ways they always have, but Covid-19 has impacted the way hospitals are handling labor, delivery, and postpartum care. One of the biggest misconceptions I have seen during this time is people assuming that hospital visitor policies that restrict laboring patients to one support person mean they can’t have a doula for their birth. Many birthing people who might have been considering hiring a birth doula aren’t even thinking about it anymore due to these policies. I want to shed some light on this topic and highlight some of the ways you CAN have a doula for your birth, even during a pandemic.
1. Birth in a location that allows doulas or an additional support person.
If you really want a doula at your birth, and the hospital you are planning to use does not allow more than one support person, see if you can switch to another location for your birth. If you decide to have a homebirth, you are in charge of your space and can usually choose to have anyone there that you want, including your doula! Birth centers also tend to be more flexible when it comes to visitor restrictions and will usually accommodate a doula or labor coach. Some hospitals are also allowing up to two support people or one visitor and a doula. Make sure you ask about your chosen birth location’s visitor policies during Covid-19. If the policy at your current hospital doesn’t work for you, then see if you can find somewhere that is a better fit!
2. Advocate for doulas to be welcomed back into hospitals.
As a consumer, you can always complain or speak up about a policy that you don’t agree with. Call your hospital and tell them that you think doulas are valuable and an essential part of your birth team. Doula support has many proven benefits for both mothers and babies and should not be excluded from hospital birth even in a time of pandemic. Here is a great article that discusses the evidence for doulas: evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/. If you know of other expecting families that are also wanting to have a doula for their birth, encourage them to speak out too! The more that families voice their concerns about restrictive visitor policies, the more likely it is that hospitals will listen and consider changing these policies.
3. Have your doula accompany you to the hospital as your one support person.
This is not an easy decision, especially if you have a partner that you would like to be at your birth. But there are several reasons your doula may be the best fit as your sole support during labor. If you already have a child or children, and you don’t have access to childcare, it may be a good idea for your partner to care for your other children while your doula accompanies you during labor and birth. Also, depending on your partner’s comfort level with providing labor support, you may decide that a doula would be more helpful to have at your side while you are giving birth. Additionally, some birthing people do not have a partner, family member, or friend to be with them during labor and find that a doula is a great asset to their birthing experience. Though this can be a difficult position to be in, there are no right or wrong choices when it comes to choosing the best support person for you.
4. Hire a virtual doula.
Covid-19 has propelled virtual doula support to the forefront. Though it is different from the in-person support that is commonly associated with birth doulas, virtual doula support still offers many benefits. Your doula can provide education, resources, information, and support during your pregnancy. She can provide your partner with tips and tools to make them more confident in their role as your labor coach. Also, having access to your doula during labor via text, phone, or video can provide you with help for decision making and real time advice for the tricky times during your labor and birth. Many doulas are offering virtual support now so you should be able to have access to this option, even if you do not have any doulas who live near you.
5. Invest in a postpartum doula.
Many families underestimate the toll of the postpartum period, and Covid-19 has made access to support in the form of new mother’s groups or in-person lactation services much more scarce. In addition, family support may be lacking depending on individual risk factors and travel concerns. Adjusting to life with a newborn is almost always challenging, but during a pandemic, you need all the help you can get! If you are not comfortable with in-person help during this time, many postpartum doulas are offering virtual services. A Postpartum doula will ensure that you and your baby are getting your needs met and that you know you are not alone in any challenges you may face.
While the world around us is changing rapidly and nothing seems certain anymore, some things haven’t changed. Babies are still being born. Parents are adjusting their expectations and finding ways to welcome their new babies with joy. And doulas have adapted as well, so that no matter what happens, families will know they have a trusted companion to walk them every step of the way.
Andrea Gerdes is a certified birth doula and postpartum doula who lives and works in Charlotte, NC. She is the homeschooling mother to three kids and the wife of one amazing husband.
Complete Joy Birth Services
Charlotte, NCPhone: 540-226-1312