H1N1 Pandemic Causes Hospitals to Limit Support People
Hospital policies regarding the number of labor support people allowed in the labor room have become more strict due to the threat of the H1N1 virus. Many of the hospitals are enforcing this policy by limiting visitation hours or restricting the number of visitors and their access to patients.
In the past, some hospitals have allowed two or more labor support providers at a time in each birthing suite to attend to the laboring woman. Now more and more hospitals are restricting the number of support people to only one person or visitor in an attempt to slow the spread of H1N1. These policy changes force a woman to choose between having a doula or her primary partner or spouse present.
Little Evidence Shows that Limiting Visitors Slows Spread of H1N1
According to experts, little evidence shows that restricting visitors in hospitals will curb the spread of H1N1. One of the reasons for this is that people who are not yet symptomatic or do not feel sick can already be spreading the virus up to 24 hours before any symptoms start..
While encouraging more frequent hand-washing and placing more hand sanitizers around the labor and delivery floor may help from the spread of H1N1 to pregnant women, health care workers may also be one of the primary ways that this virus is spread in hospital settings.
DONA International Brings Attention to Mother’s Right to Have a Doula
The premier doula organization, DONA International, believes that these policies restrict a mother’s right to have the type of support she needs during childbirth. For parents who have planned to use a doula to support them during labor, this policy change to restrict visitors is not welcome news. Many doulas begin working with families at the beginning of the pregnancy to assist them in the preparation for childbirth and writing birth plans. Doulas are often the only familiar presence to the laboring mother in the birthing room.
To be told at the door that a mother must choose between her primary labor partner or her doula due to restrictions on the number of visitors is not only infringing on the mother’s access and right to having enough support but also could affect her confidence in giving birth.
DONA recommends that doulas who are planning to assist families in the hospital find out ahead of time what policy changes may be in effect that could limit their support. In addition, doulas who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should make arrangements for back-up support.