how virtual doulas can help in the age of coronavirus
While there have been virtual doulas for a while now, the appearance of the novel coronavirus has transformed this once largely in-person role into a remote and critical one.
We are living in unprecedented times, and many of us have been ordered to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. As hospitals work hard to reduce the possibility of transmission, extra people, including doulas and, in some cases, partners, are currently not allowed in several hospitals to support laboring people. We must protect healthcare workers and flatten the curve, and we empathize with how challenging it will be for partners to not be there physically.
Virtual doulas have existed for years to support people who have no doula care in their immediate community. Now, these online remote doulas can be anywhere, supporting pregnant people during the COVID-19 crisis.
What do doulas do?
As we explained in a recent blog post, doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support to you (and your partner, if applicable). Doulas can vastly improve your birth experience and reduce the rates of interventions in labor. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula. Doulas have always been about in-person care, but these extreme times call for significant changes in how we work and support people.
How do virtual doulas provide support to laboring people during the COVID-19 crisis?
Virtual doulas provide independent, supportive care. While particular services and styles can vary between doulas, a good doula will make sure you have evidence-based information, practical pain-relief tools, and emotional and informational support. There is significant evidence that doula care improves birth outcomes. With doulas—and now partners—being excluded from many delivery rooms, virtual support may be the primary option for many laboring people.
What services do virtual doulas typically provide and how do they do it?
- Prenatal planning. The prenatal meetings are easily done virtually. During these planning sessions, doulas will educate their clients, help inform them about their choices, and empower them to ask questions of their care providers as they prepare for birth. This process also allows clients the opportunity to express any fears and concerns about the birth experience. This session is a great opportunity to learn what to bring in your birth bag, especially if your partner won’t be able to join you during labor and will help you feel more confident about approaching your labor.
- Emotional support. Your virtual doula is there for you 24/7. They’ll take your phone calls, text with you, or be on continual or occasional video chat as you wish, to “sit with you”, support you and be there through the challenges and the joys of birth.
- Helping you figure out when to leave for the hospital during labor. One of the more challenging aspects of hospital birth is figuring out when is the right time to go to the hospital during labor. With care providers recommending that people minimize their time in the hospital at this time, doulas can help you figure out how far along you are in labor through non-clinical cues like the strength, length, and duration of contractions, how the birthing parent is acting and what they report they are feeling.
- Pain-management techniques. Your virtual doula can work with you during labor by telling or showing you pain-management tools and techniques throughout labor. They can talk you through guided breathwork and imagery, acupressure points to reduce pain and birthing positions to try
- Answers and reassurance. Your doula is on stand-by to answer any questions you may have about what is happening during labor. They’ve seen labor before and they are trained to know what is normal. They can also be your trusted cheerleader, reflecting realistically what is happening and how you are progressing with their knowledge of the stages of labor.
- Evidence-based information. Did your doctor offer to break your bag of waters and you want to consider the risks and benefits in order to make an informed decision? Doulas can talk it through the process, or can send you information to help you make the right decision for you.
What types of devices do virtual doulas use to provide support?
Doulas can be available to you online in a variety of ways throughout your labor, including laptop video, smartphone, or simply via text or email. It really depends on your needs and your preferences, as well as what your place of birth is open to. Several OBGYNs and hospitals have said they will help and welcome virtual birth support, so talk to your care provider now. This product or something like it can help you clip your phone right on to the hospital bed so your doula, partner or birth can be close at hand.
How does it work?
There’s a few different ways you can work with a virtual doula.
- Book a complete package which includes virtual prenatal meetings, 24/7 on-call availability (text, phone call, video chat), postpartum meetings. Doulas charge different set fees based on experience.
- Book a la carte services like a prenatal visit to prepare for birth, support during the start of your labor until you arrive at the hospital, hospital support, and postpartum follow up visits.
- Book hourly support or buy a package which allows you to access your doula for a certain amount of time.
Doulas provide a much needed support system during pregnancy, labor and early postpartum. In these unprecedented circumstances, online doulas can keep parents connected, supported and cared for to ensure that parents are not alone during childbirth.
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