Safeguard the Right of All Laboring People to Have In-Person Labor Support - DC

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As of March 29, 2020, nearly all major DC hospitals have enacted policy limiting patients' access to doulas in Labor & Delivery and Postpartum units. In practice, such a sweeping policy has meant that many individuals and families are without adequate support during their birthing times. Patients have been separated from partners, single birthing people have been unable to attain support, and many have struggled to safely navigate an overwhelmed hospital system with ever-changing policies and practices in these uncertain times. 

Research has shown that the presence of a doula reduces certain risks for birthing persons. In the absence of a doula, and in a pandemic when tensions are high, risks for birthing people have and will continue to increase substantially. Hospital nursing staff, already spread thin, cannot spend the limitless hours needed with each patient to ensure their health and their baby's health, or to provide physical assistance and emotional support. 

We know the hospital system is overwhelmed in this crisis. However, the burden has only been increased by preventing doulas from providing in-person support in Labor & Delivery Units. We must ensure no one gives birth without their chosen support team. We must act quickly to ensure the maternal mortality rate does not increase during this time. 

On April 29, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo of the State of New York issued Executive Order No. 202.25: Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency. Of note in this order is a provision securing access to in-person doula support:

"[...] any article twenty-eight facility, shall, as a condition of licensure, allow any patient giving birth to have present with them: a support person, who does not have symptoms of COVID-19, for the labor, delivery and also the remaining duration of the patient’s stay; and/or a doula, who does not have symptoms of COVID-19 for the labor, delivery, and the remaining duration of the patient’s stay."

To safeguard the health and well being of birthing people in DC, and to alleviate the increasing burdens on the healthcare system, we ask that leaders in the District of Columbia examine this order and issue corresponding guidance in DC. We ask that you extend to doulas the designation of personnel essential to the care and support of pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people.