Hospital Birth & Women’s Rights

From the beginning of humankind, women have supported other women as they birthed their babies. These support persons are known as “doulas.” Doulas are welcomed into homes, birth centers, and hospitals alongside a laboring woman and her partner as a key component to the birth team. Doulas are trained and knowledgeable in their field, providing physical, emotional, and informational support, as well as client advocacy regarding choices and individual rights during birth. They work alongside medical professionals (OBGYNs, nurses, and midwives) as a cohesive team to support the birthing person, and their partner, in having a positive, healthy birth experience.

Why, then, are doulas currently being denied entry into Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital? More importantly, why are women being denied their right to have a doula by their side if they so choose? This restriction has NOT been adopted universally in other hospitals around the country.

In a time where medical staff is spread thin, doulas are a consistent source of support and guidance for birthing families, giving nurses the ability to take care of their many other tasks and adhere closely to the new policies regarding COVID-19. Doulas have spent countless hours with families prior to the actual delivery, giving them a unique ability to support parents in an individualized way.

It is confusing why people are allowed to be in groups in restaurants, bars, and stores, BUT BIRTHING PEOPLE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE THE SUPPORT THEY NEED - ONE DOULA, IN ADDITION TO THEIR PARTNER, DURING LABOR at Bozeman Health.

Pause for a moment and think about how outrageous this actually is! People eating or drinking in a public setting are not wearing a mask while doing so. They are in an enclosed space with about 50 other people not wearing masks. These people then go back into our community, interacting with their families, coworkers, and patrons in other stores. Our community is allowing this day-to-day activity, but restricting a laboring person’s access to essential care.

Denying birthing women a basic right like this, especially when they are paying thousands of dollars to a private business, is archaic, irresponsible, and harmful. Bozeman Health’s current visitor policy states, “One healthy adult caregiver can stay with you during labor, vaginal delivery in the labor room, and after delivery.” However, doulas do not fall into the visitor category. They are considered essential.

A statement released by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses, in reference to doula support during the COVID-19 pandemic, clarifies:
“Doulas are not visitors and should not be blocked from caring for patients in the antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum period. Most doulas have been contracted by patients weeks to months ahead of time and have established provider relationships. They are recognized by AWHONN and ACOG as essential personnel and part of the maternity care team,” said AWHONN

Consider the benefit of what Certified Doulas do for people during labor. Consider their ability to follow strict guidelines to keep people safe and healthy. Consider the very real harm being caused by denying birthing people the support they need in a time of increased isolation and anxiety. We all want families to thrive even though the world looks a little scary right now. There is no denying the incredible care provided by Bozeman Health’s Labor and Delivery staff, but we CAN do better. Ask Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital’s board to allow doulas in labor and delivery rooms!  

Kami Wagner is a Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula with Tree of Life Doula Care. She has spoken out about the importance of supporting women, especially during the perinatal period, at Moms Like Me 2020, and continues to advocate for birthing women while building strong community relationships.