Read Our Official Statement on COVID-19
Childbirth International, in all things, is an advocate for informed choice and autonomy among our students, graduates, and their clients. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are providing this statement on the state of birth support when hospitals and birthplaces are limiting the number of support people and visitors on their premises.
It is important to keep in mind that hospitals are restricting visitors to limit the spread of disease and to support social distancing initiatives. The fewer asymptomatic people who enter a hospital, the less risk posed to the healthcare professionals working tirelessly to address rising healthcare needs and hospitalized patients for those who have COVID-19. Childbirth International, as an organization, supports hospitals in making decisions to mitigate risk in these situations for their staff, patients, and the community as a whole.
The support of a doula is invaluable and beneficial for birthing individuals which cannot be discounted. In times of crisis, though, we also may need to step back and consider the perspective of the hospital administrators and public health authorities who are trying to manage something that is largely uncontrollable, with limited resources. When you consider the average doula curriculum, there is very little involving standard precautions, safety, and infection control and prevention. Handwashing and being mindful of personal hygiene are often covered, however, that isn’t enough. Doulas and other practitioners need to be aware of how different pathogens spread, how to mitigate the spread, and what precautions can be taken to reduce the potential for transmission of disease.
It is our belief that birth and lactation professionals who are specifically trained in infection control and prevention can be an asset to the birth support team, instead of the liability they may be perceived as in healthcare institutions. We have identified that doulas and other birth and lactation professionals are in need of continued education in terms of infection control and prevention and are launching a 9.2 contact hour professional development course on a “pay what you can” basis. Students and Graduates of Childbirth International can access this course at no cost with their student site login details.
Individuals who complete this course will receive a downloadable certificate of completion that will identify them as having demonstrated their competency in the knowledge, understanding, and skills needed to support their clients safely while supporting the hospital’s or birth center’s infection control initiatives.
It is important to consider a number of additional factors when advocating for doulas to continue supporting birthing individuals in the hospital. Among them are the importance of informed choice and decision making. Clients need to be aware of not only the benefits of in-person doula support but also the particular risks associated with the presence of additional people at their birth during a pandemic.
It has been reported that people who are not showing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 can still transmit the virus in the days before they begin to feel ill. Some individuals may test positive and never show symptoms either, which is why social distancing has been heavily encouraged and, in some countries, mandated. Clients cannot make an informed decision about whether they want in-person birth support if they are not aware of the potential risks. Birth and lactation professionals will also need to be sure they are considering the risks associated with taking clients and potentially bringing the virus home to their families, or sharing it with other clients they might be seeing.
If you cannot be physically present with your clients because of the risks of contracting or passing on COVID-19, there are still plenty of options available for connecting with and supporting them. This might look like virtual and video support through Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Meet, or other available applications. Texting and email are still useful forms of communication and support when working with clients prenatally and postpartum. For many people, it can be particularly reassuring to hear another person’s voice during stressful and isolating times like this, making phone calls a great way to check-in with your clients. This is the time to bring people together however we can. You may have a cluster of clients who are all approaching their due dates or newly postpartum so you might explore how you can continue your prenatal and postpartum care virtually in a group or community-based setting to remind your clients that connection is still important, even if we can’t do it in-person.
We are in unprecedented times and we are seeing the COVID-19 virus spread more widely and more rapidly than most of us have ever experienced. There are a lot of scary things in the news right now and it can feel overwhelming not only for us as professionals but for our clients, peers, colleagues, and communities as well. While it may feel like we’ve lost a great many things, one thing we need to be sure we hold on to is our humanity and our drive to connect with, support, and raise up our community so everyone feels cared for and seen.