We must always be cautious about transmitting illness or infections to pregnant women, as well as being equipped with appropriate advice and resources that may help reduce fears that our clients may have. We also know that people who are socially isolated or who have low incomes may be most greatly impacted by the lack of availability of essential household items.
To date there is no evidence that the virus leads to severe adverse outcomes for newborn babies or that it can be passed to the child during pregnancy (Source: The Lancet). However, pregnant women should be especially vigilant to reduce the risk of infections.
We believe we all have a duty of care to prevent the spread of this virus, so that we can limit the impacts on the health system and protect the most vulnerable populations – and to date, social distancing and good hygiene practices appear the best ways to do this.
We also want to protect the mental health of our community members and limit unnecessary fear and anxiety of having to come to public gatherings if people are not comfortable doing so.
What we are doing
In addition to implementing our organisational epidemic and pandemic policy that is designed to uphold the rights and safety of staff, volunteers and clients, we are:
- Introducing screening questions for new clients to assess potential risk of infection before introducing them to their doula
- Requiring doulas to use additional screening questions with their existing clients, so they can monitor risks and make adjustments to their care plans for clients if necessary
- Required self-isolation for all staff members and volunteers who meet the criteria for being at risk (as set by the Department of Health)
- Postponing all non-essential gatherings – and where possible, adapting them into online settings
- Enabling all staff to work flexible hours, from home (which is common practice at Birth for Humankind, to be adaptable to working and family needs)
- Reinforcing messages about practicing good hygiene and introducing increased precautionary measures for those working from a shared space
- Publicly sharing resources about pregnancy and coronavirus with our doulas and the general public
- Adapting all training, induction, and where possible client contact to phone or online settings
This is a highly dynamic situation and we will continue to adapt and adjust our response as appropriate. We thank you for your understanding and cooperation and continued support as we work together to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our clients and each other.
COVID-19 related resources to share
The following resources may be useful to you, or pregnant women you know or work with.
Victorian Department of Health and Human Services: Multi-language translated resources on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Better Health VIC: General advice and information
Department of Health: General updates
World Health Organisation: General information and advice
Does Birth for Humankind support home births?
We fully support a woman’s right to choose where they want to birth. However, at this stage we are only in the position to provide volunteer doula support to clients who are registered to birth at a public maternity hospital or at home, through a public maternity hospital home birthing program.
Does Birth for Humankind support free births?
Birth for Humankind does not support medically unassisted births, often known as ‘free births’. Our doulas are skilled and trained to provide complementary non-clinical support to birthing people during pregnancy, birth and early parenting – however we will not provide doulas to birthing parents who are not planning to have clinical (medical) support at their birth. Our volunteers must abide by our Doula Code of Conduct at all times, which ensures this standard is maintained.
We do however believe there is a difference between having a medically supported birth (with a medical professional, such as a midwife present) and having potentially unnecessary medical intervention during birth. We fully support an individual’s right to choose the level of medical intervention that is right for them. Therefore, our doulas can help clients understand all the potential options available to them so that they can make a free and informed choice about what medical interventions they may want.
Does Birth for Humankind encourage natural births?
Our priority is ensuring that all birthing parents receive equitable and respectful maternal care, which includes the right to understand all the birthing options available and choose the one that is right for them – this includes medical interventions and ‘natural’ options. We will not encourage one option over another, but instead inform clients about all options available.
However, we know that many birthing parents do not receive full information about all interventions available and may receive unnecessary medical interventions. Evidence also shows that appropriate social support and interpersonal care can reduce the need for medical intervention – which can both improve experiences of birth, reduce risks to maternal and child health, and reduce the cost to the public healthcare system. Therefore, whilst reduced medical intervention may have benefits, we fully support everyone’s right to know all the options available to them so that they can take best advantage of everything available to them in our first-class public health system.
Is Birth for Humankind a pro-choice organisation?
Yes. We believe that every woman or birthing parent has the right to make their own decision about a pregnancy and should be able to access an abortion if that is their choice. Everyone should have access to safe and legal abortions regardless of their culture, religion, geographical location, gestation of pregnancy, or financial situation, and it should not be restricted. Abortion is a human rights and social justice issue.
Our clients are usually referred to Birth for Humankind after they have decided to proceed with the pregnancy. However, should a client at any time be in doubt as to whether they wish to terminate the pregnancy, we are committed to ensuring they have access to all the information needed to make a free and informed decision. Our doulas will support clients through an abortion, if they so wish. We would also facilitate access to other support services as required.
Does Birth for Humankind only support women?
We support any pregnant or birthing person. We understand that not all birthing people identify as women and will provide inclusive, appropriate, personalised support to everyone.
Whilst our programs focus on the needs and rights of the birthing parent, we actively consider the involvement of other parents, family members and friends, if the client feels comfortable in doing so.
Does Birth for Humankind provide translators or interpreters?
Yes. We believe everyone has the right to access safe, respectful, high quality, inclusive care, with provision of an accredited interpreter in-person, where required, in line with the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights in Victoria.
Free interpreters are available via the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS). We are disappointed that this service does not provide interpreters for Aboriginal language groups, as we believe that equitable access to health care is a fundamental human right. Regardless, we are committed to seeking out interpreters for all clients and will make all efforts to provide in-language support. Unfortunately, due to limited availability this may mean that only phone-based interpreting is available.
What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?
A midwife is trained to provide clinical (medically based) care and support to women during pregnancy. A doula is trained to provide non-clinical support – including personal, practical, social and emotional support.
Whilst a midwife could provide equivalent support to a doula, the reality of the public health system means that the vast majority of birthing parents are not able to see the same midwife continuously throughout their care. Only 8% of people have continuous care from a midwife or other medical professional during pregnancy and birth. A midwife’s workload means that they not always able to remain with a birthing parent throughout the whole labour. This means there is a critical role that the doula can play in providing continuity of support, that complements the clinical care provided by midwives and medical professionals.
There are a lot more points of similarity and differences, that we would be happy to discuss with you! But it is important to note that these are complementary roles, that together can provide the best possible care, support and experience for birthing parents.
Does Birth for Humankind have any religious or political affiliations?
Birth for Humankind is an independent and secular organisation. We have no membership or affiliation to any political party or religion.
Does Birth for Humankind abide by the Victorian Child Safe Standards?
Yes. We are committed to child safety and wellbeing. We want all children to be safe, and to feel listened to and empowered. All employees and volunteers must abide by our Child Safe Commitment Statement and Code of Conduct. Our CEO is a designated Child Safety Officer, with accountability for reporting any known or suspected risk of harm to children.