Maintaining continuity of maternity support during COVID-19: Position Statement.
Updated: 11 November 2020
Birth for Humankind fully supports the physical distancing measures and precautionary protocols that have been put in place to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
We also know there are multiple barriers preventing women experiencing social and economic disadvantage and social isolation from accessing the health system and getting the care and support they need. We seek to ensure that they are not further disadvantaged at this time.
Our priority is to maintain continuity of support for women experiencing disadvantage during pregnancy, birth and early parenting, whilst preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our clients, volunteers, staff and wider community.
Restrictions on ‘visitors’ in hospital settings.
Doulas are part of the professional support team available to women and families during pregnancy, birth and early parenting. They provide critical support, especially during times of heightened fear and anxiety, especially for women experiencing disadvantage. The presence of a doula is linked to improved maternal health indicators and birthing outcomes for women – and may reduce the amount of time the client needs to spend in hospital.
We believe it is critical to maintain a client-centred care approach that takes into consideration the unique needs of women experiencing disadvantage and complex care needs. Therefore, we believe extenuating circumstances and the individual needs of vulnerable clients must be taken into consideration and their doulas allowed to accompany them (and partner, if applicable).
We are continuing to reach out to our contacts in government and hospitals to enable this to happen.
We are continuing to deliver services, as close to normal as the circumstances allow. Our latest guidance and requirements for our doulas are available here. A public summary is available below.
We have implemented Covid-Safe protocols, in line with government advice. This includes but is not limited to all staff working from home until further notice; screening of all clients before appointments or allocating a new doula; required reporting and self-isolation for any staff member or doula if they meet the risk criteria (have symptoms of COVID-19, have come into contact with someone with COVID-19, or are being tested for COVID-19), and prohibition of any meetings with clients, staff or other volunteers if they meet the risk criteria.
Our doulas are available to meet clients face-to-face if the client and doula both feel comfortable doing so. Remote support via phone and video will still be offered to clients who cannot safely be seen at home or in other settings.
Current DHHS guidance and hospital policy continues to permit only one birth support person to be present in the hospital unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, doulas can meet or contact clients immediately before and after the birth.
We always aim to have back-up doulas available to support clients in the case of unforeseen circumstances arising or requiring additional support needs. We are continuing to do this to mitigate the risk of doulas being unable to support clients.
This service is possible thanks to the tireless commitment of our volunteer doulas. This unprecedented situation is putting increased burden on everyone and we are aware that this may impact doulas' availability as they juggle other competing demands, including work, and family responsibilities. This may mean a temporary reduction in the number of new clients we can match with a doula.
Extended postnatal support.
As per our pregnancy and birth doula support, extended postnatal support is still available face-to-face if the client and doula are comfortable doing so, and risk screening is negative and social distancing procedures are in place. It can also be delivered online or by phone. We envisage that there will an increased demand for extended postnatal support in the coming months, as a result of reduced social contact and support available to women from multiple services during this time. As always, we are continuing to recruit and train new doulas and raise revenue to ensure we have ample resources to meet client demand.
Training and induction.
For the time being, we have transitioned our bicultural and new doula induction course to an online setting. This has meant reorganising some content, so the more ‘hands-on’ training can be carried out at a later date once we are no longer enforcing social distancing measures.
Social connection for clients.
We recognise that clients experiencing disadvantage and social isolation are at increased risk. As a way of maintaining connection and building community amongst clients we are launching Birth for Humankind client ‘chat groups’. These groups aim to connect pregnant women and new mums with shared experiences. We will encourage clients to access groups in their preferred language and /or in their local area to build community and reduce social isolation.
Information for clients.
We are supporting our doulas to provide detailed information to their clients about how COVID-19 may change their maternity care. This includes producing written resources, such as these multilingual summary sheets, which can be shared as needed.
We fully understand the need for physical distancing, but are working hard to ensure it doesn't come at the expense of social connection. We welcome the opportunity to work with you to ensure continuity of support for women experiencing disadvantage during this difficult time.
If you have any questions, please contact us.