The Yukon Association for Birth Choices (previously the Community Midwifery Association of Yukon) is calling for changes that would no longer exclude doulas as part of a family’s care team in hospital.
Doulas are professionals hired by families to provide support during pregnancy, birth and afterwards; a distinction from midwives who provide medical care.
As Christina Kaiser, president of the association, explained in an email, in British Columbia, certified doulas have never been excluded as part of a families’ care team.
In the Yukon, however, doulas are an extra support person for the family and have not been able to work in hospitals since June.
“There is no reason why this should be different here (than in B.C.) for certified doulas who follow the same rules as the health care providers in the hospital,” Kaiser stated.
While a number of letters from doulas and families have been sent to the territorial government calling for changes, there has not seemed to be a response thus far, Kaiser said, highlighting the efforts the association now has underway.
The association will be sending a letter to Premier Sandy Silver as well as the ministers of Health and Social Services, and Community Services. It is also calling on Yukoners to write to the premier and ministers to voice their concerns with the situation.
As Leanne Watson, a doula in Whitehorse with 17 years experience, explained, doulas have not been able to work in Yukon hospitals since the COVID-19 outbreak in June. In some cases exemptions have been granted, but families have to apply for the exemption, including the often personal reasons they believe it’s important for them to have a doula.
“I think it’s not trauma-informed,” she said, noting having doulas deemed as essential would go a long way to making it easier for families.
While birth doulas provide many out-of-hospital supports, Watson said support at the hospital is an important piece for many families. Currently, she can offer some remote support.
In B.C., certified doulas are viewed as essential and have continued to work in hospitals providing support to families.
Watson made it clear she doesn’t believe the situation in the Yukon is being caused intentionally, but rather because there’s not a process in place for doulas in hospital as there is in B.C.
Not having the option of having a doula exacerbates those giving birth not having, or the getting as much support as they could be, she said.
She’s hopeful that with more Yukoners expressing concern over the situation, it will draw attention to the issue and, perhaps, result in changes that would allow doulas to get back into Yukon hospitals without forcing families to seek an exemption.
Maggie MacQuarrie knows the value of having a supportive doula.
She’s had one for the births of four out of five children, the youngest born in April.
MacQuarrie was pregnant with her second child when a good friend was training to be a doula.
At that time MacQuarrie was going to school full-time and her husband was working full-time. Living in a new city, they did not have family nearby to help out.
For MacQuarrie, the after-care a doula provides was especially important at that time.
With each pregnancy, MacQuarrie and her husband have continued to hire the same doula, who has provided support that’s important to the family and specific to their circumstances each time.
In April, with her husband travelling a lot for work and the possibility of isolation after being away, it wasn’t clear if he would be able to be at the hospital for the birth given COVID-19 restrictions, a situation MacQuarrie described as “really heart-breaking.”
Ultimately, her husband was able to be there, but knowing her doula was there gave “that extra support.”
She recalled one moment during the birth when she was feeling quite deflated that her doula gave her the strength so needed in that moment.
As MacQuarrie pointed out, having an infant is a big life change and a doula provides the support many need during that change.
MacQuarrie stated her belief that option for support should be available to all regardless of where a family gives birth.
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