Birth & Covid, A Doula’s Perspective in Middle GA (Part 2)

Fair warning. This blog was born out of the frustration of the effect that Covid-19 is having on our maternal system. Let me start by saying that I do believe that drs. and midwives are trying. I imagine that this is hard for them. However, this is much harder on the women that are having babies in the midst of a pandemic. That is where my heart is right now. With each of you that is hurting, afraid, and full of axiety.

Let’s talk a bit about the limitations that our hospitals are placing on the L&D units in Middle GA. You are allowed 1 person with you for the entirety of your stay. That person cannot change. They can leave and do whatever they need to do, but they cannot swap out. You can’t have 1 person for your birth and 1 to help you postpartum. This is putting an incredible amount of stress on our birthing mothers and their families. What if the partner is unable to be there for the birth? What if they have other children and no family around? What is the mother needs her doula for the birth, but her husband for postpartum? They are being put in a position of being alone and vulnerable in the hospital (I will be sharing a story that proves this point next week).

I know that the hospital would say that they are not alone, they have a nurse and their provider. That is just not true. The nurses have more than 1 patient and the provider may pop in a time or two, but they won’t be a consistent presence until the time to welcome your little one has come. As a doula, I hear time and time again from women about how they felt lonely and afraid. They left their birth feeling unheard and traumatized. They are happy that their baby is here, but they are deeply hurt about their labor and the care they received. These stories have only increased since Covid-19.

Let me put you into the shoes of a woman giving birth today.

Today is the day. It is finally time to meet your little one. Maybe you’re already in labor. Maybe you’re being induced. You walk into the hospital and find your way to assessment. There you meet a nurse, probably someone you’ve never met. She immediately tells you to get undressed, put on the gown she gives you, and prepare to get checked. Once she calls your provider and they decide to admit you, you go to the L & D room that you will give birth in (this could take 30 min to 2 hours). There, you meet another nurse, again one you’ve most likely never met. She hooks you up to monitors and asks you for your medical history (also known as asking you tons of questions). She will probably check you again. If you are already laboring, you will have done all of this while working through contractions. If you are being induced, this will all happen before the inductions has started. Once she is done with your intake, she will most likely leave and let you labor. You won’t see her for a while, unless there is something she needs to talk to you about, she needs to check you, or you need something from her (like an epidural). You will build a bit of a rapport with her. Over the course of her shift, she learns what your birth plan is, how you labor, and gets to know you and your partner. Then shift change happens, and you start fresh. New nurse, new personality. Another person checking you. During all this time, there can be many different medical personnel coming in and out. You will have spent a fair amount of time alone with your 1 person you’re allowed to have with you. This can all be overwhelming. New people, feeling vulnerable, strangers putting their hands in private places, the feeling of being alone and a lack of support from people that you love and who know you. Add that to the exhaustion that you both feel. Now it’s time to push. Maybe you have an epidural, maybe not. You could be given a choice of what position to push in, but usually it’s a reclined position with your legs spread and in the air. You may push for a short time, or for a long time. Then you meet your baby. If all is well, he/she will be put on your chest and you will get to spend some much deserved time with your sweet baby. Your provider will inspect your vagina to make sure that you haven’t torn. If you have, they will repair the tear. Then everyone will leave and the room gets quiet. A little while later, they come in to do all the “newborn” things like weight, shots, and such. Two hours after your baby is born, you will be moved to the mom and baby unit. New nurse again, and a pediatric nurse, as well. If all went well, you will get to go home 24 hours after your baby is born.

This is a typical birth, where everything goes as planned. Many times, things don’t go as planned. What’s different about this birth is that with Covid-19, Evidence Based Birth reports that in a survey done of pregnant women, more than half (53%) of the survey respondents rated the psychological impact of COVID-19 as severe.  Two-thirds of women reported higher than normal levels of anxiety.

We are asking women to deal with higher anxiety and stress, while having less support from their loved ones or their doula. While I completely understand the position the hospital and providers are put in, I also know that the mother’s mental health is so important. This is a brand new experience for them. What happens to a mom while in labor

-Interactions with the hospital staff (do they listen to her concerns, do they explain procedures before they are done, do they listen to what she is feeling and believe her?)

-The support from those around her and

-Having autonomy in regards to her body and her baby

will stay with a woman long after she leaves the hospital. I will be posting a blog to help women know what choices they have, because knowledge is power. It is so important the the woman has a positive and empowering birth.

I wrote this blog because I have heard so many stories from women who feel unheard, like no one believed them, or that they were talked down to. How is woman is treated in her birth is so very important. She and her partner deserve to have the support they need for this very important day in their life.

Birth stories matter.

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