The year 2020 has definitely thrown many for a loop, and doulas are no exception. At the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, doulas were not allowed in most hospitals. In fact, some hospitals didn’t even allow a birth partner. Now that we have more understanding of covid-19, are doulas allowed in hospitals?
The simplest answer, yes and no. I realize that doesn’t seem simple, but it truly depends on where you’re located.
It seems many doulas, birth advocates, and more have fought to raise awareness about the essential nature of doula work. This was successful in many areas and worked to allow doulas to support clients with extra safety regulations in place.
In other places, doulas have not been able to attend hospital births since the first hospital restrictions began.
Can Doulas Attend Hospital Births? Yes and No
Before committing to offer in-person labor support, it’s important your client confirm the current regulations. They need to check with their hospital or birth center. In most cases, homebirths have not placed strict covid-19 restrictions.
After the initial closures seen in New York and New Jersey, we saw the decision eventually reversed. This was after realizing the importance of continuous labor support. Doulas can now attend births in these areas. Clients did not have to choose between doula and their birth partner.
In New Jersey the order read:
“Recognizing the role of doulas as an essential part of an expectant mother’s care team, the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) today issued an executive directive exempting doulas from limits on support persons throughout a woman’s hospital stay during the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 hospitalizations decrease statewide, there is now sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing capacity to allow doulas to resume their duties during labor and delivery as a member of a pregnant woman’s health care team.
Doulas support healthy pregnancies by providing culturally appropriate, social and emotional support to pregnant women throughout the prenatal period, labor and delivery, as well as the postpartum period. Research demonstrates that support from a doula is associated with lower caesarian section rates, fewer obstetric interventions, fewer complications, and the improved health of mothers and babies after delivery.
Under the directive, hospitals are required to allow at least one designated support person to be with the expectant mother during her hospital stay – the patient’s spouse, partner, sibling or another person she chooses. Doulas will no longer be counted toward this limit and can accompany the designated support person for the mother’s hospital stay. Hospitals may allow additional support individuals if the hospital has determined that sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available.”
This was excellent news for expectant and laboring parents in New Jersey. New York offered a similar statement, protecting the support of doula care.
Other areas did not release similar orders. This means in many cases local government and individual hospitals can decide who can attend a birth. Doulas cannot go to some hospitals, including at least one in Pennsylvania.
What Restrictions Are In Place For Hospitals Which Allow Doulas?
Every hospital, state, and local government varies. It’s important to learn the specific restrictions for any hospital you might attend a birth at. These regulations have also changed throughout the pandemic. It’s important for you and your client to check up-to-date information as their due date approaches.
In some hospitals restrictions include:
- Proof of doula training and/or certification
- Client must have a negative rapid covid-19 test before you can join them
- Self-provided and appropriate PPE gear, at minimum a face mask/covering
- Pass a covid-19 screening including no fever, cough, sore throat, etc.
- The local health dept has not instructed you to quarantine in the last 14 days
- Follow all guidelines and rules set forth by the specific hospital for distancing
- Not leave the room and re-enter
Each facility may have different guidelines which change often. It’s important to seek information from the right person at the hospital. Each employee may not be abreast of new changes and guidelines.
What If My Clients Hospital Doesn’t Allow Doulas?
Unfortunately, not all facilities allow doulas in at this time. We’re facing an unprecedented pandemic and each facility is trying to keep everyone safe with limited understanding of this virus.
If your client’s hospital does not allow doulas, they essentially have three options:
- Choose to give birth at another facility
- Utilize virtual doula care
- Have in-person care while laboring at home followed by virtual care in the hospital as desired
None of these situations are ideal for a parent. Parents initially made an informed decision to give birth where they felt most comfortable. With different guidelines at different facilities, some parents may opt to make a last minute change to another facility.
Most parents won’t choose to change facilities. However, some may opt for more prenatal and postpartum support, as well as virtual support during birth.
Be sure to read Providing Virtual Doula Support to learn more about supporting your clients during this unusual time.
Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast answer to whether doulas are allowed in hospitals at this time. The good news, many facilities are allowing doulas and these unprecedented times showcase the valuable work doulas perform.