Lift restrictions on support people during birth

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Australian’s have done a remarkable job of flattening the curve from Covid-19. Due to this effort, we are seeing each state and territory ease up their restrictions. According to the first step of the federal government’s “3 step framework for a Covidsafe Australia” we can now (or very soon):

- hold non work gatherings of up to 10 people

- open child care centres 

- visit a retail store 

- attend an auction / open house

- go to a cafe / restaurant 

- go to the movies 

- go to the hairdressers 

- attend the local swimming pool / outdoor exercise program 

- stay in a hotel or other accomodation 

- travel to local and regional areas for recreation 

- And soon travel interstate for a holiday

And yet there’s been no mention of easing up restrictions on support people attending births in hospitals. On May 19th Queensland Health declared that: “up to two people may remain with a patient at all times and are not restricted to the two - hour time limit if they are: a partner and / or support person/s when the patient is admitted for care related to the pregnancy”. We ask that all other states / territories follow suit. 

Giving birth is one of the most momentous occasions in anyone’s life. Health care professionals are often caring for multiple patients at a time while also keeping up with paperwork - and so are often unable to spend long periods of time with people in labour. Birthing people are currently allowed one support person during their birth, however that means that if that person needs to use the facilities, grab some food, or even just have a break then patients are left alone. Giving birth is a huge event and the more support available the better.

The current restrictions also mean that women are unable to have one support person (which is usually their partner) as well as their doula attend their birth. The WHO recommends that all birthing people have access to a professionally trained doula, as studies show it improves birth outcomes for mothers and babies. The CDC, RCOG, ACOG and AWHONN all oppose the exclusion of doulas from the birth space. RANZCOG notes that pregnant women and their babies do not seem to be at a higher risk of covid-19 infection or complications. 

The main route of transmission of covid-19 is through respiratory droplets and close contact with someone who is infected. Fever is present in 87.9% of cases, and a dry cough is present in 67.7% of cases, so check points at hospitals including a declaration of health and temperature checks are surely very effective at excluding possible carriers from entering hospitals. The WHO has stated that the risk of spread from someone without symptoms is “very low”.

We ask that as more and more restrictions are lifted in all areas of life, you do not forget about the wellbeing and rights of people birthing in hospitals, and the proven benefits to mothers and babies when they have more than one support person attend their births.

Thank you.