Can A Virtual Doula Help Me During the Pandemic?

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Many hospitals have placed pandemic-related limits on the number of support people that can accompany a birthing person. If you were planning to have a doula present to support you at your birth, this might not be possible. Or perhaps you were planning to hire a postpartum doula to support you after your baby is born. Even as things start to open up again, you may want to protect yourself and your new baby by not having someone who is not family in your home in those early days after baby arrives. In this blog post, we’ll talk about what your options are for virtual doula support: before, during, and after birth.

Virtual Support Before Labor Starts

It’s not widely known, but most doulas start supporting you the day you hire them. They might offer a prenatal meeting or two, which could easily take place virtually when it’s safer to for everyone to stay at home. At a prenatal meeting with your doula, you might talk through your birth plan, which could include a discussion of your hopes and dreams for your birth, as well as a backup plan if things don’t go as expected. At a virtual prenatal meeting, your doula will also get to know you and your partner, if you have one. The doula will discuss your preferences for the type of support you’d like to receive and help you and your partner think through what may and may not work for you both during the birth.

Because doulas have training and experience with birth, they can answer any questions that you have about plans for your birth and after the baby comes. Good doulas provide evidence-based, non-judgmental support, and they can be a great resource even outside of official prenatal meetings. Your doula might share information or books with you, have ideas about getting your baby into the optimal position for birth, and as your due date gets closer, help you make a postpartum plan. When you hire your doula, they’ll let you know what kind of support they offer and how to get in touch.

Virtual support during active labor will likely look like: a lot of positive words and emotional support for you and your partner, coaching for your partner in different types of things to try to help support you physically and emotionally, and the chance to converse with someone knowledgeable and non-judgmental about medical interventions and procedures that have been suggested by your doctor or midwife.

Virtual Support During Labor and Birth

When your labor starts, you and your partner might not know what to do—especially if this is your first baby. Having a doula to call may help keep you and your partner calm and make the decisions that are best for your family. While you should definitely also call your care provider if you think you’re in labor, a doula is a great second call because—thanks to their training and experience—they are usually pretty good at listening to you, both as you or your partner talk about your labor signs, and as you labor they can hear you over the phone.

While they’ll likely not tell you what to do, a doula can make suggestions according to what they’re hearing from you and your partner. Based on what you want, they might be able to coach you to get comfortable at home for early labor or give guidance about making the decision to go to the hospital or birth center.

Once you get to your place of birth, your doula will likely continue to be available via whatever communication mode you’ve discussed, maybe phone, text, or video call. Be sure to bring along the phone chargers you might need so that you—or more likely, your partner—can stay connected. Virtual support during active labor will likely look like: a lot of positive words and emotional support for you and your partner, coaching for your partner in different types of things to try to help support you physically and emotionally, and the chance to converse with someone knowledgeable and non-judgmental about medical interventions and procedures that have been suggested by your doctor or midwife. In the heat of the moment, it’s normal not to remember everything you learned during your childbirth education class, so ask your doula for help. Once baby is born, your virtual doula will celebrate with you, too.

Virtual Support from a Postpartum Doula

The typical role of a postpartum doula is emotional, physical, and practical support in the home following a birth. While a virtual doula might not be able to do as many of the physical aspects, they can still be a huge help, especially during a pandemic. Here are a few things that a virtual postpartum doula might help with:

  • Feeding support: no matter how you are going to feed your baby, postpartum doulas usually have knowledge about both breastfeeding and formula feeding. They can help with baby’s breastfeeding latch and positioning via video chat and by connecting you with more help if you need it, too.
  • Emotional support: the postpartum time is a high-emotion, high-anxiety one, particularly with the added layer of stress that comes with a global pandemic. A good postpartum doula could help you process your birth story, normalize your postpartum experience, and, if needed, help you seek help if you need it for bigger emotional and psychological challenges—all over the phone or video call. Plus, it can just be really nice to have another adult to talk to.
  • Practical support: if you’re not keen on having a stranger in your home during the pandemic, your doula can still provide practical support. They can drop off meals, run errands, and offer advice about baby gear or the best lactation consultant in the area. They can also give video lessons on burping, swaddling, sleeping, and comforting the baby to you and your partner.
Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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