Doula warns of ‘postcode lottery’ amid Covid-19 pandemic

A “POSTCODE lottery” could be leaving new mums and pregnant women without vital support, it has been warned.

Campaigners have called on doulas – fully-trained birth companions – to be allowed to attend labours amid fears some women are unable to have their ideal birth scenario.

Katy McDowall, from Shawlands, became a full-time doula at the end of last year and has already helped numerous women recover from traumatic labour experiences during the pandemic.

She said: “It’s such a difficult time anyway because there’s so much uncertainty around pregnancy and birth, but this has really elevated that.

“There’s a bit of a postcode lottery so some people can access things that others can’t.

“People are making decisions at the moment about their birth which, maybe, otherwise they wouldn’t. They’re maybe choosing not to have a birth at home or exploring that option.

“A lot of people are choosing to be induced as they are worried the situation could get worse in the hospitals.”

The 32-year-old said women are facing a more anxious pregnancy due to being unable to have their partner attend additional scans or having to forego their doula’s presence at their birth due to the single birth partner policy.

Katy said: “When I was pregnant with my son, Charlie, I was terrified of giving birth and it wasn’t until I looked into hypnobirthing I thought ‘I have never heard of anything describe birth as something other than horrible’.

“We want to be there to support women through and give them a positive birth experience, but right now, I can’t attend births because I want to be able to really be there for a person and that’s just not


“We hope as 2021 progresses things will change and doulas will be given the ability to be there alongside another birth partner.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the health board was working hard to support pregnant women.

She added: “Throughout the pandemic, our maternity services have continued to operate to ensure women and their families are supported and provided with safe care in the lead up to, during, and following the birth of their baby.

“We are sorry to hear that mums to be are concerned about this issue, however we continue to work hard to support women across our services to continue to have access to as full a range of services as possible, including home birth, and have followed national guidance at all times.

“National policy states that one birth partner during labour is allowed irrespective of place of birth, and women can choose who this one person is. We have introduced additional risk assessment in response to Covid-19 in order to keep women and staff safe while delivering home births ensuring practical measures are in place and appropriate PPE is used.

“We continue to do all we can to ensure that mums to be and new mums have all the information they need and are supported, and that birth partners can spend as much time with them as possible.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “We know that these are challenging times for people having a baby and how important it is for women to be accompanied by their partners.

“This why our guidance states that a birth partner supporting a woman during hospital visits is ‘essential’ and allows for a woman to be accompanied to certain appointments (booking appointment, 20-week scan and any emergency appointments), induction, labour and birth including C-sections (except where general anaesthetic is required) and visits to the postnatal ward after delivery as a minimum.

“Midwives, health visitors and GPs are often the best sources of advice and support with regards to mental health and wellbeing and support is also available through Parent Club, NHS Inform, Ready Steady Baby, NHS 24 Mental Health Hub and the Breathing Space helpline.”

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