Right to labor and post partum support

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On March 16th, the Massachusetts Department of Health issued clear guidelines on treating patients in labor during the COVID-19 crisis.  These guidelines determined a support person, whether a spouse, partner or other chosen person, is essential to care for the patient during labor, delivery and in the postpartum period.  The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees.  We agree.

On March 24, Baystate Medical Center announced their new COVID 19 Labor and Delivery visitor restrictions. They are as follows: 

"Only 1 support person is allowed during labor. The support person must leave 2 hrs after the baby is delivered. Please bring needed items for your postpartum stay at the time of check in, including clothes for discharge home for both you and baby. Please be sure to bring the infant carseat at the time of check in." 

Let me tell you what this experience would look like. Mothers will show up to BMC in labor, they will have to go into WETU alone, while their support person waits outside the hospital. If admitted, their support person  can enter with all of the belongings needed for the stay. These women will have to go through the pain, stress and frustration of labor knowing that as soon as they deliver their baby the clock starts. A moment meant to be overwhelmingly filled with joy gets tarnished by an inhumane and anti therapeutic policy. This policy is not recommended by the WHO, CDC or DOH and does not align with their guidelines. 

Not only can partners and spouses provide physical and emotional comfort during labor and postpartum, they are also essential in alerting staff when something has gone wrong and the laboring patient cannot notify nurses themselves, like in the event of an eclamptic seizure or a fainting episode.  Timing is critical in these cases and monitors can be unreliable.

We cannot expect nursing staff, already spread thin, to spend the limitless hours needed with each patient to ensure their health and their baby's health, to provide physical assistance and emotional support. 

We know the hospital system is overwhelmed in this crisis.  However, the burden will only be increased by banning support people from Labor & Delivery. We must ensure no one gives birth alone or recovers alone. We must ensure the maternal mortality rate does not increase during this time. We must protect all mother's from Postpartum depression.