Doula Support in Hospitals
As of March 29, 2020, all major Maryland hospitals have enacted policy limiting patients' access to doulas in Labor & Delivery and Postpartum units. In practice, such a sweeping policy has meant that many individuals and families are without adequate support during their birthing times. Patients have been separated from partners, single birthing people have been unable to attain support, and many have struggled to safely navigate an overwhelmed hospital system with ever-changing policies and practices in these uncertain times.
Research has shown that the presence of a doula reduces certain risks for birthing persons. In the absence of a doula, and in a pandemic when tensions are high, risks for birthing people have and will continue to increase substantially. Hospital nursing staff, already spread thin, cannot spend the limitless hours needed with each patient to ensure their health and their baby's health, or to provide physical assistance and emotional support.
We know the hospital system is overwhelmed in this crisis. However, the burden has only been increased by preventing doulas from providing in-person support in Labor & Delivery Units. We must ensure no one gives birth without their chosen support team. We must act quickly to ensure the maternal mortality rate does not increase during this time.
Below are some tools and action items to help get doulas back into hospitals!
If you are in need of specific information, please do not hesitate to contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Documented Support of Doula Access
Since these new policies went into effect, several organizations have made statements support doulas' access to hospitals to provide in-person labor and postpartum support. Unfortunately, because of ambiguous legal language that leaves much of the decision-making authority in the hands of hospital administrators, these statements on their own are not enough. Hospital administrators need to hear from their patients and the community!
Statements to share with your care team and/or hospital administration:
Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN)’s Position on Doulas with Patients During COVID-19 [scroll down to the March 11 update]: "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."
letter from the VA American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Affiliate to hospital labor and delivery managers, service line directors, and policy makers is advocating for policies that prioritize equitable care that ensures access to companionship and continuous labor support by skilled providers.
On April 29, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo of the State of New York issued Executive Order No. 202.25: Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency. Of note in this order is a provision securing access to in-person doula support:
"[...] any article twenty-eight facility, shall, as a condition of licensure, allow any patient giving birth to have present with them: a support person, who does not have symptoms of COVID-19, for the labor, delivery and also the remaining duration of the patient’s stay; and/or a doula, who does not have symptoms of COVID-19 for the labor, delivery, and the remaining duration of the patient’s stay."
Governor Cuomo's executive order paves the way for other such executive orders.
To safeguard the health and well being of birthing people in the DMV, and to alleviate the increasing burdens on the healthcare system, we ask that leaders in the our area examine this order and issue corresponding guidance locally. We ask that leaders extend to doulas the designation of personnel essential to the care and support of pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people.
Sign a petition:
Petition to Governor Hogan of MD: Safeguard the Right of All Laboring People to Have In-Person Labor Support
Petition to Mayor Bowser of DC: Safeguard the Right of All Laboring People to Have In-Person Labor Support
Petition to Governor Northam of VA: Safeguard the Right of All Laboring People to Have In-Person Labor Support
Contact your governor or mayor:
Mayor Muriel Bowser: 202-727-2643, email@example.com
Write a letter or statement:
We are requesting that the DC and MD American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Affiliates produce a letter to that from the VA chapter. To accompany our requests, we are looking for personalized testimony from clients who might be willing to share their stories along with our request. If you are willing to share a birth story and/or statement emphasizing why access to doula support must be protected, you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.