For parents to be, getting ready for the delivery day can be stressful, pandemic or not. Restrictions during Covid-19 made it even more difficult for those parents hoping to have a Doula by their side.
"It would have been nice to have more support in general. It goes back to what we said about having someone there who knows you," said new parents, Andy and Emily Clark.
You might have heard of a Doula but may not know much about their supporting roles.
"There is something really powerful in just having the presence of a support person that you know and trust."
Andy and Emily had their baby boy mid pandemic and said having support from their Doula was their goal.
"She really knew what we were wanting, and she talked through all of the scenarios with us, and not having that in the hospital was really hard."
Restrictions due to COVID-19 did not allow doulas to be in the labor and delivery room, so their plans had to change quickly. Their Doula, Eryn Shaffer, did all she could to prepare them both for the big day.
"It was a lot of Doula 101 with the partner. If I can't be there, this is what you do and just trying to teach him what I knew as quick as possible without overwhelming them," said Eryn Shaffer, Birth Doula.
And when the day arrived. "I was so worried caring for her that I did not sleep either, and we realized way after the fact that I was not even wearing shoes for almost 24 hours," said Andy.
Both parents wish their Doula could have been by their side every step of the way.
"We had plans to facetime Eryn, but in the moment it all went out the window, and it's hard not to imagine what it would have been like had she been there," said Emily.
Sage, a reproductive network in Waco, petitioned for change. Their goal is for all hospitals to allow both the partner and the Doula inside of the labor and delivery room.
Baylor Scott & White Hospitals in Waco and Temple say they allow Doulas. However, their visitor guidelines remain the same, only one person is allowed in the labor and delivery room, whether it's the father, a family member, or a Doula.
Birth Doula, Eryn Shaffer says, hospitals should not count the Doula as one of the visitors and believes both the partner and the Doula should be allowed in the labor and delivery room.
Ascension Providence Hospital updated its restrictions in the second week of October. Their leadership decided to standardize the practice regarding Doulas across their marker. They adopted a position that allowed Doulas to be present in labor and the immediate postpartum period. This is in addition to the single support person that has always been allowed.
Sage says they will continue petitioning and believe Doula support is needed now more than ever in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
If you would like to learn more and sign the petition, click here.
Statistics show that adding a Doula to a supportive partner reduced Cesarean rates from 25% down to 13%.
The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses released the following statement, supporting the doula's presence in addition to the partner:
“Doulas are not visitors and should not be blocked from caring for patients in the antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum period. Most doulas have been contracted by patients weeks to months ahead of time and have established provider relationships. They are recognized by AWHONN and ACOG as essential personnel and part of the maternity care team,” said AWHONN member Nancy Travis, MS, BSN, RN, BC, CPN, CBC, Florida Section Chair.
AWHONN recognizes that doula services contribute to the woman’s preparation for and support during childbirth and opposes hospital policies that restrict the presence of a doula during a woman’s active labor.
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. Read more about AWHONN’s position on continuous labor support for every woman here.