‘It’s heartbreaking’: N.B. doulas, expectant mothers call for easing of visitor restrictions

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Expectant mothers and doulas are calling for the loosening of visitor restrictions. As Callum Smith explains, right now a woman in labour can only have one visitor at a time- meaning she has to choose between a partner and a doula – Aug 18, 2020

Expectant mothers and doulas in New Brunswick are calling for hospital visitor restrictions to be loosened, similar to those in Nova Scotia.

Currently, only one visitor can be in New Brunswick hospitals for patients in the labour and delivery units due to COVID-19-related restrictions.

Jennifer LeBlanc is expecting to give birth to her first child in October.

“I’m feeling very excited,” she tells Global News. “A bit stressed about it because they are speaking about a second (coronavirus) wave.”

But on top of those concerns, she’s also stressed about the fact that as of now, she’d only be allowed one visitor in the hospital when her baby girl is born.

She’s had the support of a doula throughout her pregnancy.

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“It’s sad that we have to choose,” she says. “Taking away the first baby experience from my husband would be awful, but not having the doula feels the same as well.”

Read more: Nearly one quarter of moms experience postpartum depression or anxiety, StatCan says

That’s because she says her doula has been able to answer any questions, help support the couple, and provide guidance as they prepare for their first child.

She hopes New Brunswick will follow Nova Scotia’s lead and loosen the restrictions.

That province’s health authority began to allow two visitors for patients in labour and giving birth as of June 23, nearly two months ago.

“It’s heartbreaking because it’s almost like we would ask you to choose: you can either breathe or drink,” says Pascaline Vanoplynus, a certified Doula in Bathurst, N.B.  “You need both.”

The Horizon Health Network says patients in the labour and delivery units can have two support people, but only one can be present at a time.

“These guidelines are in place to help ensure the safety of staff, patients and visitors and to reduce the potential risk of transmission within our facilities during the pandemic by maintaining appropriate physical distancing,” Geri Geldart, Horizon’s vice-president of clinical, says in a statement.

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The Vitalité Health Network says one support person is allowed for obstetrics patients at any time.

Read more: Concerns about COVID-19 prompting more Alberta women to choose home births

“It is important to note that during a pandemic situation, visitor restrictions are in place to help ensure the safety of patients, visitors and staff,” reads a statement from Johanne Roy, Vitalité’s vice-resident of clinical services.

But the statement goes on to say the health network is not aware of any requests for the presence of doulas within its hospitals.

Vanoplynus, though, says her clients have been asking for their doula.

Feeling like they’re not being heard, Vanoplynus says the push is on to establish an association or organization of New Brunswick doulas.

“Doulas really need to be recognized as part of the birth team,” she says. “Because the next time around we have a second wave or another type of virus that comes around, women will lose their birth support again.”

LeBlanc, meanwhile, is hoping a policy change occurs before her expected delivery date in October.

“I keep on hoping that they’ll at least give us a second visitor,” she says.


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