Call to action regarding new restrictions on birthing women
Various trusts in Scotland have limited the number of birth partners in hospitals/birth centres to one, meaning that women are being faced with the difficult decision of whether to have their partner or their doula supporting their birth, or visiting them postnatally in hospitals/birth centres. In the last week, women in the Central Belt of Scotland have seen their wish to birth at home taken from them, including those who planned birth outside of hospital to reduce their risk of exposure to infection.
We in the Scottish Doula Network
feel that these restrictions cause additional stress for the birthing
family, who chose a doula to reduce it. We have concerns that the
removal of these rights will be hard to reverse, and that the
reduction in exposure that they are attempting to limit with these
measures, is disproportionately affecting birthing families. In
other wards, patients are restricted to two visitors, not one
and the NHS is also currently looking for ward volunteers to cover
shortages, all the while limiting the support women chose to have.
Some trusts have reversed the new measures following ardent feedback
How do you feel about these policy changes and the choice women are faced with - of bringing either their partner OR doula with them to the hospital, and of being forced into hospital to birth? Our concern is that many women will opt to freebirth instead of going in to hospital.
Would you consider writing a letter to the Chief Exec of NHS Lothian (or your own trust) to help them to reconsider this, and to support those whose birth is approaching? We have made the following list of questions/prompts to help you to write your letter. Please make it in your own words, it's the personal letters that make the most impact. Don’t feel you have to use all of the questions – perhaps choose three or four? Our hope is that a large number of letters with a personal touch will help them to reconsider the importance of doulas and the option to birth at home throughout these times of reduced staff and increased stress.
- Did you have a doula to support your pregnancy/birth/postnatal period, or do you plan to?
- Why did you/will you seek the support of a doula?
- What are you more concerned about – increased exposure through having your doula with you or not having her support you?
- If you were planning a homebirth and subsequently told this was no longer an option, how would you feel? Would this change your birth plans?
- How did your doula help you and your partner/family? Can you give specific examples?
- How would your birth have been if your doula had been taken out of it?
- What did it mean for your partner to have your doula at your birth? How did it feel?
- How important has planning to birth at home been in your pregnancy?
- In a time of heightened fears (being in labour plus the risk of CV), what difference might having your doula make to you?
- How would you/do you feel about birthing in hospital if that is not what you planned?
- How will/would it feel to have your doula with you in labour but unable to come to the hospital/birth centre with you?
If you would prefer to send us a testimonial about what a difference your doula made to you, or would like to do this in addition to writing to your heads of service, please do. Let us know if you’re happy for us to share it publicly, and include it in our letter. We will be writing to them as the Scottish Doula Network, and intend to also point out that the RCOG and RCM recently state that women’s birth plans should still be respected and followed:
" Trusts that restrict a woman’s right to choose who will be present at her birth, for example by restricting birth partners to one, will need to be very clear that this response is proportionate to the additional threat of infection. The case of birth partners should be looked at separately to other visitors, given their supporting role. If the Trust feels confident its response is proportionate, it should look at exceptions on a case by case basis, as a blanket policy could be open to challenge."
We appreciate any help you feel
able to give, as we strive to protect women's birthing rights.
Sending you love and gentleness at this time (and always),
Doulas of the Scottish Doula Network