These are uncertain times for everyone, but for many pregnant women and expecting families, those feelings are especially magnified.
With COVID-19 spreading across the nation and social distancing measures in full-force, many local hospitals are limiting visitations and human-to-human contact as much as possible. For individuals about to give birth, that means most family members, friends, doulas, and other supporters won’t be there for the duration of labor and won’t even be able to visit after.
That’s changing the way local doulas like Brittany Randolph work with their clients. Randolph is a certified doula and childbirth educator who works with The Sunshine Doula, and since local hospitals changed their visitation protocols, she’s moved to an entirely virtual model.
HITCH A RIDE With COVID-19 spreading across the nation and social distancing measures in full-force, many local hospitals are limiting visitations and human-to-human contact as much as possible, and that includes childbirth.
“That means that I don’t do any in-person anything anymore,” Randolph told New Times
It’s been a tough change for her and her clients. She’s had three clients give birth since the coronavirus became a significant issue locally, and she wasn’t able to physically attend the births, where she usually coaches, advocates for the family’s rights, and provides massage therapy and general hand-holding and support.
“But a lot of what I do is education and encouragement and reminding and giving suggestions,” Randolph said. “And I still do 100 percent of that virtually. It’s just changed locations.”
With the technology that exists today, Randolph said it’s pretty easy to provide all the education and support that expecting families need. With all the confusion surrounding the possible impacts of the coronavirus on pregnant women and fetuses, and whether hospitals are safe for childbirth right now, Randolph said it’s more important than ever for expecting women and families to get educated about their rights and options.
In an open letter
to the San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria communities, several licensed midwives addressed the complicated challenges that local families and health care organizations are facing in balancing an adequate COVID-19 response with the needs of pregnant women.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic has developed, our local hospitals have enacted policies and procedures in an effort to stem the transmission and exposure, both for health care providers and patients alike,” the letter reads. “Limiting visitors and labor support (doulas) professionals, in particular, has created stress and fear for pregnant women planning to birth in the hospital. We sympathize with this fear and understand the anxiety this creates for women and families in a vulnerable position. While we are supportive of our frontline health care providers in the hospital, we also understand the untenable predicament birthing families are facing.”
Local childbirth experts have seen an increased interest in home births in the last several weeks, but while local midwives say they’ll do everything they can to support the community’s needs, they face barriers to doing so.
Midwives, according to the letter, aren’t considered by public health or state government to be frontline health care providers, and their lines of supply rely on the open market. They’ve been denied access to personal protective equipment, like facemasks, through their usual suppliers, who are prioritizing frontline health care workers. And on the Central Coast, licensed midwives attend less than 2 percent of the overall total of births, so most practices are small and individual.
“As a group, licensed midwives are here to support our community through this time in the ways we are able,” the letter reads. “We want the women of our community to know that we understand your anxieties and your fears, your grief of lost plans, and your desire to have a safe and peaceful birth.” ∆