PREGNANT women have been ‘traumatised’ by WA’s lockdown say women’s health advocates.
They’re campaigning for lighter childbirth restrictions in future lockdowns, arguing premier Mark McGowan approved 40,000 punters packing into Optus Stadium for a footy game, but expecting mums were only allowed one support person.
Make It Make Sense campaign leader, doula and childbirth coach Jessie McGarry said WA’s tough restrictions separated families, as women were forced to choose between their partners or their experienced childbirth support workers.
“No one can replace a partner and the love and support they give, but also, no one can replace the doula who is experienced in what a woman will go through physically, mentally and emotionally in birth,” she said.
“The fact that [women] have been faced with this choice is one thing… a step down from that is, these women can’t even have their partner come in and join them unless they are in ‘active labour’”.
“If a woman experiences a bleed, and she has to go in because she’s worried about the health of her baby, she has to go in alone … women miscarrying have to go in alone”.
The restrictions also enforced tight constraints on support people visiting loved ones who’d given birth, with rules varying between hospitals.
In an Instagram post on Ms McGarry’s account, one woman wrote: “My husband was kicked out soon after [the baby] was born and not allowed to visit… I found the whole ordeal distressing and traumatising.”
Another said: “My husband had to leave after our baby was born. I was alone on the ward for two nights before leaving early despite not feeling ready.”
“The expectation on women is ‘well you’re alive so deal with it,’” Ms McGarry said.
“Coming out of a birth and being alive and your baby being alive, doesn’t protect you from birth trauma”.
“The way that we birth matters; it will stay with us for the rest of our lives”.
“A lot of it comes down to this intense feeling of grief where their experience has been ripped away from them”.
While the restrictions eased on Saturday, Ms McGarry said the fear of having to birth if they were reintroduced was causing anxiety among pregnant women.
“They’re not able to rest.
“They’re just in a constant state of fear knowing that things can change at any second”.
Ms McGarry said she couldn’t understand why the restrictions were stricter than during WA’s first lockdown.
“When Covid arrived, hospitals went down to one support person, and Dads could visit two hours, twice a day,” she said.
“It was pretty decent compared to what we have now”.
“It’s like it’s getting harsher and longer each time… that’s why it’s scary”.
The restrictions are also putting pressure on midwives, who are in overdrive compensating for the support which would otherwise be given by doulas.
“They are shattered, and they are the ones who have to enforce these rules, even though they didn’t make them,” she said.
“They are the ones who are given the job of turning these loved ones away”.
Health minister Roger Cook pushed responsibility onto hospitals, saying they were acting on their own health advice.
When pushed by reporters who pointed out the restrictions were imposed by order of his government, Mr Cook said: “We require our hospital leaders to implement the changes consistent with the public health advice … in terms of restricted movement.”
Mr Cook said hospitals had a high number of people vulnerable to Covid, so it was important to keep access to a minimum.