5 Reasons to Still Hire a Labor Doula – Especially During the Pandemic

A doula and client sit on a couch smiling at each other.

If there is one thing we have learned since early 2020, it’s that things are ever changing with this pandemic. One thing that has remained the same: people are still going to have babies.

At the beginning of 2020, there were so many unknowns with the virus, how it affects a pregnant person and newborn, and changing birthing location policies. There are still a lot of questions to be answered and changes regarding doula policies in hospitals but regardless, you STILL need to hire a labor doula for your birth. Here’s why…

We’re still the experts.

Our society has made a lot of adaptations to protect others and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Your body and your baby do not know that though. It is still gestating and growing your baby! Pregnancy is not new, but pregnancy during the pandemic still is.

Professionals doulas are vigilant about learning the latest research and recommendations for pregnancy and birth. And like I’ve stated, those things have not changed. The things that have changed we are continuing learning and making changes for ourselves and for our clients.

So when it comes to research, worldwide recommendations, and getting familiar of what a birth can look like during this time, a doula is still the trail guide we’ve always been to help navigate the way through this confusing time.

Specifically for me, this has carried out when there have been certain interventions suggested to my clients “because of covid”. The World Organization, the Center of Disease Control, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, and many other worldwide organizations, continually send out updates and publish online their recommendations regarding Covid care and precautions for pregnant and lactating people and newborns. We can look at these large, respected organizations and compare them to the recommendations in our area. If this is tricky for you to navigate, I definitely recommend subscribing to Evidence Based Birth® Newsletter and receiving their updates for yourself!

Being up-to-date on these things myself and in turn educating and informing my clients has still given parents confidence during such a stressful time to be pregnant!

We’re still the only ones 100% there for you!

Many facilities are still permitting 1 support person. That person who is with you, is the only one who can help you with comfort measures, advocacy, remembering your birth plan, all the while, walking through an experience they themselves may have never gone through. Partners, doesn’t it sound reassuring to have someone to help you with those things?

Even if your only option is a virtual doula, the same reasons still apply to having additional labor support. We are the only birth professionals that can offer unbiased, evidence based support for a birthing family. We make suggestions for pain management, for labor progress, for information on interventions. We offer emotional support during the tough times and reassurance when in doubt. We remind you of your preferences and wishes that we discussed together during your pregnancy and help you during any moments where the plans may be changing.

I’ve supported some incredible parents during the pandemic along with great care teams. Still though, it’s a stressful time for everyone. Hospitals and health care providers are going through a lot and I empathize with them being working through it all. I’m grateful to help be a part of the team and still assist birthers to have the best birth possible.

At a hospital birth early in the pandemic, there was one nurse who I can tell was especially stressed during my client’s birth. She even stated how every other patient on the floor that day had had a cesarean and my client was the only one left laboring on the floor. The on-call doctor came in, appearing extremely overwhelmed, and told my client she needed to make progress in the next hour or she would be having a cesarean too. Thankfully my mask covered my jaw on the floor; I’ve worked with this provider multiple times and this was not like them. Putting myself in their shoes, I really thought it was just the overwhelmingly stressful time in the pandemic that made them talk to my client this way. Not excusing their behavior but I helped my client’s understand the big picture. I asked the nurse to come back and talk with us and they discussed what was going on with my clients too. We affirmed my client’s that they were healthy, and so was their baby. I even doulaed that nurse a bit that we were all doing what we needed to do and this was just a long day for that provider.

Long story short, with the nurse’s help we did Walcher’s position and my client went from 5-8 cm in that hour. She went on to have a vaginal delivery and they said they were so grateful for my support during their birth. The partner even agreed that things would have looked different if I was not there for them. I was super grateful to be a part, but I couldn’t help but think about what all was happening in the other birther’s rooms that day.

We’re still the only part of the birth team that works 100% for you.

Advocacy is still needed.

Needless to say from that last point, you’re still going to need to advocate for yourself. Put yourself in my client’s shoes from that last point I shared, would you be able to communicate for yourself in full labor and then be able to think of the things needed in that moment to help your labor progress? Would your partner? I know I wouldn’t – that’s why I needed doulas for my births too! These are the things to really think through before your big day.

Even if your provider and birthing location have the best statistics in town, you never know what you could be walking into. It’s great to know there is one constant who will be there to support you and be there (even virtually) to help you advocate during your birth.

I have seen some incredible births in 2020 and it really had to do with the prep work my client’s did before going into labor. We talk through their main preferences, role played, discussed possibilities of what situations may come up. I do this so they can have a better idea of what to expect and know having a doula present is more than just massages and hip squeezes (although that is very important too!)

Learning advocacy skills from a professional birth worker will still help you feel more confident and prepared for your birth.

Your partner is going to still need breaks.

I love my partners and dads, but unless it’s a super fast birth, I can’t imagine a person not needing a single bathroom or meal break. If they get a chance to take that break, are you okay with being alone in your birthing room? Some people totally are and that’s fine! But just something to consider.

I had another client during the pandemic that were first time parents. The dad had anxiety and shared that with me during their pregnancy sometimes it hits him and he knows how to cope but needs to be alone. This ended up happening during their birth and I was with the mom during this time. She said in between contractions, “See this is one of the reasons I knew we would need you. He’s amazing but he needs you too.” And he really was an incredible support! But he needed an hour to himself and he did that to ensure he could be the best husband to his wife and knew she would be taken care of while he did that.

Depending on the couple, this can look a variety of ways, sometimes they need a quick restroom break and a snack. Other times, they need to take a nap so they can help once I am gone! I even had a mother-in-law arrange services for their son and daughter-in-law because she knew her son would need some extra help from a doula since no one else would be there! (Boy mom here, I am probably going to do that too lol.)

Pre-pandemic and now, we are still here for the partners to help them have the best experience as well. It’s your birth too!

We still can direct you to additional resources when needed – even virtual ones!

Whether your birth is in hospital and out-of-hospital, doulas are well connected to additional resources available to you. One of the benefits of the pandemic (there aren’t many!) is that there are several other professionals that have converted their services virtually as well. So whether you need a postpartum doula, lactation support, pelvic floor therapy, mental health counseling, we have other professionals we can refer you to.

We still are the ones to help navigate you for a smooth transition into your fourth trimester.

Overall, labor doulas have had to make many adaptations during the pandemic but still our goal is to help you have the best birth possible. As we honestly do not know what the future holds, expect what is happening at the start of your pregnancy to be the same at the end of your pregnancy. Please consider looking into professional labor doulas in your area or finding one online that can support you virtually. We can still support you each step of the way during your pregnancy and birth!

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About the Author

Katie Terry has been a Certified Labor Doula in the north Alabama area since 2013. She became a labor doula after having a “home away from home birth” with a Certified Professional Midwife in Tennessee. She knew if it weren’t for the positive information and resources provided to her by women in her community, including her mother, she would not have had that experience. She then wanted to do the same for mothers and families in the area for whatever birth experience they desire.

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