These times are extremely challenging for everybody, but few more than pregnant women. As mothers, we know just how daunting childbirth can be and as such the sheer importance of having a birthing partner with us as an advocate for our choices, a voice to speak of our fears and anxieties when perhaps we are unable to, a mental support pillar in the case of bad news or complications.
Pregnant women are extremely vulnerable during the pandemic when it comes to their mental health. The absence of a birthing partner during antenatal appointments, all levels of labour and postpartum stages has the capacity to cause many mental health issues and anxieties. Pregnant mothers need advocation and close support from somebody they trust.
Birthing partners are not visitors, they are crucial supporters in our journey.
During this pandemic, women around the world have been affected, including myself.
When I think back to my last labour experience of 2007, one that would threaten to take my life and leave my two children without a mother, it is my birthing partner’s desperate plea to stay awake, his face nose to nose with mine as I faded away, that will never leave me.
My message is clear, my birthing partner helped to save my life and with the heightened anxieties of the pandemic rife, the continual presence of a birthing partner has never been so important.
I often think about that day. I often pose the question what would have happened had I been in that room alone? What would have happened to that petrified women in searing pain edging closer and closer to the abyss had she not had her rock by her side enforcing the strength to fight against the urge to submit? Would she have had the fight to hold on?
My story dates back 13 years, when the labor period for my second child ended in a vicious haemorrhage and dangerous levels of blood loss. There is very little I remember of the moments between my newborn son being given to my husband, accompanied only with a murmur of ‘take him’, and being transported by air ambulance to a larger hospital. But one of the vivid memories from that day was my husband, and birthing partner, bringing his face as close as it could be to mine when all I wanted to do was close my eyes and bring an end to the pain. He stopped me, focused me and urged me to cling on to life. Had he not been there for support and as a reminder of our marriage, my less than an hour-old son and four-year-old daughter, I may not be here writing to you today.
It’s a trauma that reshaped my entire perspective on life, my career, and showed me the importance of birthing partners for women’s physical and mental health. It’s why I speak so strongly today, over a decade on, about the crucial role of having a chosen and trusted advocate throughout the antenatal, labor and postpartum stages.
Women Are Feeling Unsafe And Alone
A new study conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Virginia School of Medicine revealed that pregnant women are feeling less supported during pregnancy and childbirth due to changes in maternity unit practices related to the pandemic. Here is a closer look at some of the findings.
Key Findings From USA COVID-19 Childbirth Study
- Women are no longer know for sure whether they would have their birthing partners, companions, or their doctor attending their delivery.
- Earlier, immediate isolation of the newborn and breastfeeding avoidance was routinely carried out in some centers, rather than immediate skin to skin contact after birth.
- Women in this study had twice the odds of hypertension compared to prior studies, which showed a 10% rate of hypertension in pregnancy. Anxiety was reported by over a third compared to 20% in previous studies
- Depression was reported in nearly a fifth
- Over a fifth of the women reported feeling unsafe in the maternity unit
- Over 60% of the women in this study said they were not well supported during childbirth
Childbirth is one of the most naturally beautiful moments in a person’s life, but it also has the potential to be devastatingly complicated – sometimes beyond comprehension. We simply cannot allow women to face these moments alone.
The #ByMySide Movement
#ByMySide is a social media campaign, a rallying call, to raise awareness of the role of a birthing partner for the mental and physical health of pregnant women and to help implement changes to the restrictions.
How you can help #ByMySide ?
Post a picture with your birthing partner, whether that be from today or during the time of labor and birth, with a message outlining their importance in your journey. Accompany the post with #ByMySide and a tag to @mutusystem
Founder of MUTU System
MUTU System is a medically recommended digital antenatal and postpartum support platform working with over 70,000 mothers in more than 150 countries. It is referred to by specialist Pelvic Health Physical Therapists, Surgeons, surgeries in the UK and USA, Midwives and Hospital Women’s Health Physiotherapists.