Virtual vs. In-Person Doula Support

As the new normal continues to evolve, so must your decisions around support from your birth team. Below, we've compiled insights and experiences from PSP members to help guide you as you and your doula think through whether they’ll be joining you up close or from afar.

 

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One PSP member asks…

 

“I am hoping to get a sense of how others who have hired doulas for support are navigating in person vs. virtual support.  

 

We really like our doula, and the support she has provided so far.  When we signed on with her in March/April, she was very straight forward about all support remaining virtual and had said she anticipated this being the common response of the doula community.  Needless to say, I care about the health and wellbeing of this person, and want to respect her choice in how to proceed and keep herself safe.  

 

I do find myself really wishing she'd be able to assist in person at least while I am laboring at home.  If you are working with a doula and don't mind sharing, will you let me know if the person is supporting you at home and/or at the hospital?” (Post from mid-July 2020)

 

 

Some members report that their doula will be joining them in person for the birth, even if visits during pregnancy are virtual or socially distanced:

 

“We just signed on with our doula within the last couple weeks. We made it clear that we'd appreciate having our two prenatal visits in person, in Prospect Park, where we can remain socially distanced. She also happens to live in our neighborhood and has mentioned the ability to come over to the apartment during pre-labor should we need that. The plan was to always have her at the hospital during labor, especially since Brooklyn Methodist recently started allowing doula's back in.

The difference between when you chose your doula and we chose ours probably has a lot to do with what we have planned. That said, maybe it'd be worth bringing up, with the understanding that she may not feel comfortable coming over? Couldn't hurt to ask.”

 

“Our doula is doing all prenatal visits virtual but the entire labor and birth will be in person at our house and at the hospital. This was really important to me after my first birth where I felt it vital having her present. The regulations allow doulas in hospital in addition to partners so not sure if that helps change anything.”

 

“Our doula is coming in-person to the hospital; she is also our cousin and is family. 

She will be 5 months pregnant herself when my wife is due and feels comfortable with it.

Everyone has their own individual perspective of risk. Suggest being honest with your doula about your feelings and see where that takes you. Good luck!”

 

“Our doula is coming to the hospital with us and birthing at home with us. We did our first prenatal visit virtually, but that was our choice and our second prenatal visit will be in person outside.”

 

“We signed on with our doulas (also a pair so one will definitely be available for my labor) back in Feb. They typically offer 2 in-person prenatal and postpartum visits but since quarantine, they have done and continue to have all prenatal visits virtually to minimize exposure. They also started offering monthly virtual check-in’s which have felt like additional prenatal visits for no additional cost. 

They did a mix of in-person/virtual in-hospital/all virtual labor support during the times when hospitals weren’t allowing support people and started in-person support both at home and in hospital once they’re allowed for clients who felt comfortable with this arrangement. Since all birthing persons get tested and the ones they’ve supported have all been tested negative, plus they’re having minimal exposure with anyone besides birthing support, we feel pretty comfortable with them providing in-person support during my labor.”

 

 

While some some doulas are keeping things virtual and avoiding hospital visits across the board:

 

“Our doulas (they work in a pair) were very clear that they would not be attending at the hospital. Their take was that even if it's allowed they're not confident that it's safe to have more people traveling between multiple hospitals frequently, either for them or for everyone else. I'm not sure at this point whether they'd be able to attend our laboring at home before the birth (which I, like you, would really like), but they have committed to teaching my partner as much as possible in terms or comfort techniques etc. I don't find this to be an ideal situation, so I'm at least trying to get the most out of their support as I can in terms of virtual meetings for question answering and emotional support. I still feel glad to have hired them, but I do wish the situation were different--the main thing that's rectifying it for me is that I have changed primary care to a very hands-on midwife who provides a lot of similar comfort and support services as a doula would at the birth itself.”

 

“We opted for a virtual doula arrangement because of the pandemic, but for what it's worth, the mohel we have hired (to do our son's bris) says they are very impressed with hospitals. And, with counts as low as they are, things feel controlled in terms of risk. The mohel's practice is to come to our home (no guests) to do the ritual/procedure, and she quarantines except for those interactions with families. I thought it might be a helpful anecdote as it relates to doula's risks coming in and out of hospitals regularly.”

 

 

Additional thoughts:

 

If your doula is not comfortable joining you at the hospital, and virtual help doesn’t do the trick for you, you may still have options for in-person doula support. During the pandemic, many hospitals are offering in-house doulas to help with labor and delivery as well as offer postpartum assistance. You may want to ask your OB/GYN or midwife if they know of plans for your hospital to implement this practice. If the answer is no, consider writing a letter to the hospital or otherwise advocating for a doula.

 

Doulas aren’t just for birth, but birth doula support is better suited to the adjustment to virtual than postpartum doula support. Some folks who were planning to hire a postpartum doula are now choosing to cancel or postpone until the pandemic further subsides. While virtual birth doula services can be an important source of solidarity, pain management advice, and advocacy, virtual postpartum doula services may not be as practical, since they won’t be able to help with physically caring for the baby or tending to your home.

 

When it comes to navigating tricky decisions, as with any client/caregiver relationship, it’s key to keep open lines of communication, be honest about your own needs, and be respectful of theirs.

 

Are you a doula or an expectant parent with additional insight to share? Let us know at "> and we’ll add your input here!

 

Further reading from PSP: