COVID-19: What Birthways is Doing, What You Can Do, and How to Make the Most of Home-based Supports in the Face of this Pandemic
The COVID-10 pandemic continues to require our attention and vigilance. As we move into flu season and the winter months, Birthways continues to ensure the highest standards of care and safety in providing in-person support to expectant and new families. We hope this information sheet will answer your questions and know that you can call us for any additional questions or needs your home may have.
Birthways response to the pandemic continues to evolve as we learn more about the virus. Birthways continues to take the lead in implementing measures above and beyond governmental guidelines to protect our employees and the families we support.
Birthways has been doing this work for over 20 years and our team members are in the habit of upholding routine precautions including:
- Mandatory handwashing and hygiene practices following best practice guidelines.
- Self-reporting symptoms of illness in advance of any scheduled care so that any cancellations or backup plans can be implemented.
- Restrictions on working with households that may have infectious illness.
- Exclude from duty protocols that follow or exceed CDC recommendations.
We have implemented Transmission-specific Protocols during the pandemic, as we did during H1N1, that are targeted towards the prevention of the particular infectious illness we are facing – in this case, COVID-19. Because our doulas, educators and lactation consultants are employees and not contractors, we require that our staff commit to follow our Best Practice Guidelines. They are also provided training, assessments and appropriate PPE as well as sick pay and other benefits that ensure that they are supported when they are unable to work due to illness or other circumstances.
Since the beginning of this pandemic our founder, Karen Laing, has played an active role in creating best practice guidelines and ensuring our doulas, educators and lactation consultants get the support they need to follow these guidelines. She also provided the first training for Board Certified Lactation Consultants in the U.S. on this topic through USLCA.
If you’re pregnant or are home with your newborn, we recognize that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak can feel overwhelming and stressful as you prepare for and then settle in with your baby.
We want to ease the worry and help make this transition as special and sweet as it can be, in whatever ways we can. Practicing with care to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is a way that we can take care of you and your family, as well as our extended community.
What Birthways is Doing
- All Birthways in-person classes and clinics have been paused until it is deemed safe to meet again in group settings.
- Birthways is staying up to date with hospital and birth center policies so our doulas can best support you at your chosen birth location.
- We have appropriate PPE and policies and procedures in place to ensure that providers who care for families directly are at low risk of exposure to COVID-19 both at work and outside of work.
- We provide benefits, such as health insurance, sick pay, and paid and unpaid extended leave benefits so that the hardship of staying home through quarantine or self-monitoring periods is minimized.
What Your Doula is Doing:
All Birthways doulas have:
- Successfully completed the course: COVID Best Practices for Doulas, Lactation Consultants and Perinatal Educators. Created by our founder, it has set the standards nationally for doulas.
- Committed to following social distancing, local stay-at-home orders, and wearing appropriate face covering at all times when in public spaces.
- Passed Birthways eligibility screening tool that assesses individual and household risk factors, including contacts with persons outside the home.
- Agreed to report on any possible exposures with persons who are confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, to monitor their temperature, and to follow all guidelines from the Department of Public Health and the CDC that are designed to prevent the spread of this virus.
If a potential known exposure occurs, the doula will follow Public Health or CDC guidelines, whichever is the most conservative, for self-monitoring and self-quarantine.
In Your HOME, your doula will:
- Wash their hands using best practice techniques. Our practice for handwashing is already standard in our care. However, we’ve added additional time intervals, and other ‘threshold’ practices. You’ll see that your doula will ask to change in a safe area and will disinfect phones, pens, keys and other personal items.
- Ask for and use single use towels and appropriate supplies to make your home safer than when they entered it by disinfecting high touch areas.
- Follow CDC and WHO guidelines for the use of face coverings – whenever a doula is in your home they will be masked. No exceptions.
- Remind you to also wear face coverings when you are in close proximity.
- Perform an audit and make recommendations for home safety. We also offer this as a virtual service.
- Be prepared with hand sanitizer, reusable/disposable face masks, plastic face shields, and gloves to ensure they have what they need to safely be in your home.
- Access testing, participate in contact tracing, and receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Note: We recognize that it is not responsible to over-use available testing sites if there are no known or suspected exposures. We will continue to appraise the use of testing to add additional layers of security to our practice guidelines.
What We Ask Of You, Our Birthways Families
Your home is our work environment.
- Contact us immediately regarding any symptoms that you or anyone in your home is experiencing, if you have any known or suspected exposures, and if you must travel or have contact with others outside your home that may increase your risk of exposure.
- Sanitizing surfaces is an important part of preventing droplet spread pathogens. During prenatal or postpartum care our staff will implement a high-touch surface cleaning protocol. Be sure to have your preferred cleaning and sanitizing supplies available for the doula to use when in your home. We ask you to join us in wearing appropriate face coverings when a minimum distance of 12’ cannot be maintained.
How to Make the Most of Home-Based Support: Your COVID-19 precaution plan
Stay well, stay home
Minimize visits to urgent care or medical clinics by receiving in-home support from a trained doula or IBCLC, who will support your recovery and your baby’s development.
Please plan ahead
When you reserve care, we are best able to meet your needs with one provider. We recognize that many of our clients are less able to turn to grandparents or family members that are in higher risk groups if complications arise and they need more support than anticipated. Talk with us about creating a plan that is realistic, reassuring, and appropriate to meet your needs.
Birthways has expanded its surface cleaning protocol to ensure that your high-touch areas are cleaned at each of our visits. We’ll cover trouble spots so you don’t have to think about it. Please talk with us about your preferred cleaning products, and please plan on having a large supply of either disposable or reusable, single use towels (see below).
Laundry and Single-Use Towels — Stock up
We suggest using single-use toweling in bathrooms, kitchens and baby areas for drying hands. Having a large quantity of small hand towels is a good idea if you’d like to avoid using disposables. We’re happy to manage the extra laundry and can set up a system for good hygiene at home.
Baby Blankets and Laundry
Baby blankets can be a great barrier between your baby and clothing that has been worn outside the home. We encourage you to have more blankets on hand and will help you set up a system for washing. Of course, we’ll do the laundry for you!
Running errands are already part of our doula scope of care and we’ll implement our precaution protocols as we arrive at your home. You can avoid the frequent outings that are inevitable when you run out of the items you need for baby, for yourself and for your home. Birthways offers antenatal services, so if you would like support during pregnancy, please be in touch!
When we arrive at your home after being out in the world, we have our transition protocol to keep the world outside. This includes sanitizing any personal items we have touched and changing clothes.
Optimizing lactation (through nursing, pumping, feeding expressed breastmilk) is one of the most impactful ways to support your newborn’s health. Doula support, paired with access to our Board Certified Lactation Consultants via online visits and Warmline phone support can play a significant role in lactation outcomes. More than 90% of our clients tell us that their doula was an important factor in establishing breast/chest feeding and working through challenges.
As always, our approach is evidence-based, and updated when new information becomes available.