Update Covid-19 restrictions to allow two support people for birth

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This month, COVID-19 restrictions were eased further to support families and our economy. You can have a gathering (inside or outside) with 10 of your family and friends. You can go to a pub, restaurant or cafe for dinner. 10 people can watch you get married, or 20 people can farewell you at your funeral (30 if they hold it outside). You and 9 others can go to your local church this Sunday. Want to get fit? Bootcamp is back. Need to buy a house? You can go to open homes and auctions again too.

But what if you are one of the 99% of pregnant people planning to giving birth in hospital? Currently in the ACT, people giving birth are only allowed to have a single nominated support person for the entirety of their labour, birth and early postpartum period.

Picture this: After months of preparing for this day, you're labouring at home with your support team. Your partner is holding your hands and helping encourage your hormones, your birth support (family member/friend/doula) is massaging that perfect spot on your back and encouraging you and your partner with your chosen birth affirmations, and you start to feel like it's time to go to hospital. You hop in the car and get on your way. One person focuses on driving while the other focuses on you until you reach your destination. Then your support person leaves. They're not allowed to support you anymore. You get lead into a room you've never seen before and introduced to a midwife, and while they're really nice, they're not your support. The midwife can't stay and massage 'that' spot - there are others birthing who need attention too. Your partner desperately needs the bathroom but doesn't want to leave you alone. Your heat pack has gone cold, again. This isn't what you planned.

So why are you and your partner left without your chosen support? Because the rules haven't caught up with the current levels of Covid-19, or the existing eased restrictions.

The way we feel when we give birth is life changing. Being well supported in birth is proven to lower the risk of postnatal depression and adverse outcomes. This isn't new information. With the cancellation of hospital tours, not enough continuity of care, as well as the generic base-level anxiety that is part of daily life thanks to COVID-19, hospitals need to start valuing positive, supported birth experiences for families.

It's time for our Members of Parliament to step up and help improve birth. We deserve it.