Interior Health changed its COVID-19 hospital visitor policy earlier this month in order to allow doulas to be present for births, in addition to one other visitor.
"We’re being welcomed into the hospitals by Interior Health," Tracy Armstrong, Operations Coordinator for the Kelowna Doula Association, said. "They’re providing us with appropriate PPE (personal protection equipment)."
To ensure the safety of patients, staff and visitors, doulas — certified professionals who provide emotional, physical and informational support to families expecting babies — must follow the COVID-19 guidelines established by Interior Health. Doulas must have been certified prior to the pandemic and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms upon entry to the hospital.
Armstrong said doulas are also required to change their clothes upon arriving at the hospital.
For visitors, maternity patients are currently limited to one adult caregiver, and their doula.
For some mothers, this is welcome news.
"For the most part with the women that I work with, they’re excited to have the privacy that is offered by the pandemic," Armstrong said. "They don't feel obligated to have family and friends present in the way that they would in the past."
She said this is a welcome change, as it allows for new parents to spend some alone time with their baby, without being overwhelmed by family and friends.
To keep patients and staff safe, Interior Health is following B.C. Centre for Disease Control recommendations and not using Entonox, otherwise known as nitrous oxide, which would be used to sedate and relax the patient. Armstrong said it increases the risk of virus transmission in birthing suites, due to its aerosolizing affect on exhaled breath.
However, she said that there are many safer alternatives being offered.
Interior Health is also following Centre for Disease Control guidelines that recommend discharge of mother and baby from hospital as soon as medically appropriate.
Doulas who provide service for home births are following the same recommendations, using the appropriate PPE.
Armstrong is satisfied with the policies in place, and said that there's currently no real upheaval due to the pandemic.
"Right now, everything is quite harmonious in the birthing world," she said.
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