Calls on NSW hospitals to grant doulas COVID exemptions in delivery rooms

At 38 weeks, Taylor Wildemann had hoped she would feel mentally ready to give birth to her second child.

But her game plan “collapsed” when she learned her doula would not be allowed into the delivery room at Gosford Hospital.

Ms Wildemann said she felt stressed and anxious.

“If there was ever a time women should have doulas, it’s now, during a pandemic,” she said.

“I felt…strengthened this time, which I didn’t last [birth].”

Public hospitals in New South Wales have limited the number of visitors to delivery rooms to one as they battle the Omicron wave.

Women must choose between a trained paid support person and their partner or loved one.

Doulas provide care for women before, during and after childbirth by offering counseling and support.

Central Coast doula Gemma Wilson says her clients feel stressed.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

Doulas misunderstood

Central Coast doula Gemma Wilson said some health authorities misunderstood the value of her work.

“It’s really important that we are considered part of this birth team,” she said.

Ms Wilson said doulas improved birth outcomes and relieved pressure on partners and midwives.

“We have a broken system,” she said.

“We don’t have continuity of care.

Pregnant women have applied to the Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD) for exemptions for their doulas.

Ms Wilson said some women had histories of mental illness, birth trauma and partners living with disabilities.

But she said requests for exemptions were denied.

“It really feels like they’re washing their hands of it,” Ms WIlson said.

Rules to protect patients

NSW Health and CCLHD have recognized the importance of supporting women during labor and delivery.

Both said the precaution was introduced “to protect women, their babies, families, other more vulnerable patients and staff by minimizing the risk of exposure to COVID-19”.

The NSW Health website said local health districts may allow certain compassionate exemptions on a case-by-case basis.

“Local health districts are working with their patients to ensure they can bring a mobile device into the delivery room so other members of their support network can join virtually,” NSW Health told the ABC.

But Ms Wildemann said a virtual connection was not a satisfactory option.

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