The COVID-19 situation has forced changes around the delivery of babies in recent weeks, and it’s having effects both on doulas and midwives.
For doulas, the situation evolved quickly when Island Health changed the policy regarding the delivery room and who can accompany the mother while in labour — in other words, the partner or the doula.
“People are only allowed one support person,” says local doula Pamela Tessmann.
As a result, many who had signed up are having to make the choice to leave the doula out of the process or change how they want the delivery.
“That’s hard on the families because they hired us doulas for a reason, so that they could have support,” she says.
Doulas provide physical, emotional and informational support to mothers before, during and shortly after childbirth. Currently, she says, doulas are worried about clients they have been working with for weeks or months, in light of the coronavirus situation and the dilemma these couples must face.
“We’re all pretty emotional about it,” she says. “Our minds are with our clients a lot.”
Couples are also worried, Tessmann says, about birth in the hospital in light of the current virus. She runs her service out of her home, though she is working by phone these days.
Tessmann says now many people are changing their minds, which means switching from their doctor in the midst of the pregnancy.
“A lot of my clients are actually considering home birth now because of the risk at the hospital and also because they would really like my support still,” she says.
In these cases, she is guiding them to whatever information they are seeking, whether it is about home births or midwives or how her support as doula would change.
“I just try to fill them in on everything they feel they need to know,” she says.
The change is not just happening on Cowichan Valley but in other parts of the province as well.
Sabrina Westra of Plum Midwifery, based in Comox and Cumberland, confirms there has been growing interest in recent weeks, especially from couples expecting in April and May.
“We’ve had a little bit of an increase in demand for home birth services,” she says. “Of course, not everybody’s appropriate for home birth. They have to be low risk and have a healthy pregnancy…. but where it’s appropriate, people are considering it who wouldn’t otherwise consider it, for sure.”
Plum Midwifery provides comprehensive maternity care, including prenatal care, specialist referrals, attendance at labour and birth, postpartum care in the home and breastfeeding support. The provincial association, Westra says, is expecting an increase in demand ranging between 25 and 50 per cent.
“We saw this with SARS as well,” she says. “It’s certainly happening again now.”
Some of this response is tied to the wish for couple to have a support person like a doula on hand during the birth.
“We also provide some care in the home, especially postpartum care,” Westra says. “We can often do those things at home.”