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As pregnant women face uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, doulas step in to help

Posted at 5:55 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 19:30:59-04

CINCINNATI — For expectant mothers trying to navigate pregnancy amid the COVID-19 outbreak, uncertainty surrounding the virus' impact on pregnancy is a growing cause for concern. In the midst of this, doulas are taking on an even bigger role in supporting mothers during and after pregnancy.

One local company, Doulas of Cincinnati, has asked its doulas to self-isolate and stop in-home visits so they can be certain they're in great health when it's time to get back to work.

"This is probably not the most reassuring time to be bringing a new life into the world, so that is a little nerve-wracking," said Katie Harris, an expectant mother. She said she's facing a new normal in the world of parenting as she works to wrangle her toddler and prepare for another baby.

She hired doula Emily Johnson, co-founder of Doulas of Cincinnati, to help her through her pregnancy before the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, their normal in-home visits are conducted over a video chat. The function of their relationship is still the same, though: Johnson works to be there for Harris through her pregnancy, from providing emotional support to preparing them for birth.

"Even in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of an economic recession potentially babies are still born," said Johnson. "So we still need to be able to support these folks as they navigate life-altering moments."

But in the midst of social distancing, it can be hard not to feel isolated. Expectant mothers face tough hospital restrictions for visits during and after birthing, limiting the number of visitors to just one person.

"When we talk about risk factors for parent natal mood and anxiety disorders," said Johnson. "Birth trauma is up there and I imagine giving birth in some of the situations some folks are experiencing across the country could definitely be considered that."

Her agency is offering free post-partum virtual support groups to families who may have to self-isolate after birth as well.

"I just don't want families to feel like they are absolutely alone," said Johnson. "We are still here."