South African hospitals (both private and government) have implemented tighter restrictions on staff, patient, and visitor interactions to reduce the spread of Covid-19, particularly in labour and birth wards.
This has meant that access to maternity, neonatal and paediatric units will no longer be granted to non-essential workers like doulas, audiologists, lactation consultants and birth photographers.
Local certified doula, Vania Truter, took to Facebook to share the notification letters she's received from hospitals stating this new protocol.
"We now have confirmation that all private and government hospitals have stopped allowing Doulas to accompany labouring moms until further notice due to the Covid-19 pandemic."
Local movement Right to Birth SA (RTB) told Parent24 that while their thoughts and hearts go out to women nearing their due dates who will not have access to birthing partners, the newly implemented measures are necessary.
"These are not normal circumstances and RTB supports the new hospital protocols at this time."
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No visitors policy across all wards
Restrictions have also been put in place where pregnant women, their partners and visiting family members are concerned.
According to the notification letters Truter received, one Western Cape-based hospital has implemented a no visitors policy across all wards.
Another local hospital has shared its restrictions on its maternity, neonatal and paediatric units.
For labouring women and their partners, this means movement has been restricted to the maternity unit only.
In terms of neonatal and paediatric units, only one parent will be allowed to visit a child at a time, and will not be granted access to any other area of the hospital, including those providing food.
Family members hoping to visit will sadly not be permitted.
Similar restrictions apply to hospital staff working in maternity, neonatal and paediatric wards, meaning that staff must remain in their designated wards for the duration of shifts and movement to other units and wards are strictly off limits.
'Stick with the plan you had before Covid-19'
In the US, mothers are allowed to choose between their partner and their doula when they give birth, but having the choice doesn't make things any easier says first-time parents Alina and Alex.
"How do you tell your partner that I love you, but I'm so sorry I prefer someone else in the delivery room with me for the birth of your first child," Alina said in an interview.
For some women, the restrictions have forced them to turn to home birthing options which one expert is advising against.
Talking to the New York Times, Dr Christina Han, M.D., University of California associate professor and director of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship, says to "stick with the plan you had before Covid-19."
"If you researched your options, and home birth is right for you, do that. If you had planned for a hospital birth, continue on that path, taking precautions," urges Dr Han.
Has your birth plan changed due to the coronavirus pandemic? Are you now hoping to find a midwife or doula for a home birth?
Compiled for Parent24 by Lesley-Anne Johannes.
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