And then there’s the visitors dilemma.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and other city hospitals have banned all visitors from labor and delivery wards in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus from asymptomatic carriers. And at hospitals which allow just one visitor, mothers are facing the almost impossible choice of who to have by their side: a partner or a doula. Studies have shown that the presence of doulas improve both mother and infant health outcomes, regardless of race.
“Oftentimes people are seeking support because they’re already emotionally, financially vulnerable,” said Galvez, the Los Angeles-based midwife. “So already they’re saying, ‘I need support for this incredibly vulnerable thing, and that’s not going to be available.’”
Smita Nadia Hussein, a mother of two, gave birth on March 17 in Morristown, N.J., accompanied by just her husband, rather than her support network of mother, sister and doula. “I didn’t feel like it was unfair of the hospital. I thought it was unfair of the universe,” she said, adding, “It sucks, it really sucks.”
The issue of support doesn’t end in the delivery room: Casey Hogle, a first-time mother who delivered at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on March 14, said that while delivery went smoothly, being at home highlighted other challenges. “The biggest impact is a social impact,” she shared, her voice wavering. “Both of our moms are probably not going to see the baby for quite some time now.”
That social support is especially important for people who have already been marginalized by the U.S. health care system.
Williams, of Kaiser Permanente Oakland, acknowledged that her hospital’s policies and the disproportionate effect that they have on women of color and at-risk people are adding countless layers of stress in an already uncertain time.
“The marginalized just become more marginalized when there is stress on the system,” she said. But, she added, “These are extraordinary times, and we’ve had to take extraordinary measures.”
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