Bonus Episode | How Doulas Support Couples During COVID-19: Interview with Doula Colleen Myatt

April 24, 2020

Hey podcast community - We've been getting so many questions around COVID-19, we wanted to dive deeper on how doulas are supporting couples right now. In this bonus episode, we spoke with birth- and postpartum-doula Colleen Myatt to find out how doulas are supporting couples during social distancing and/or while certain hospitals currently disallow doulas from attending couples' births. Colleen is certified through DONA International, and she is also an Evidence Based Birth and Spinning Babies Parent Educator. Thanks for listening and see you for our April Q&A episode on Wednesday!

Beautiful Births and Beyond
DONA International
Spinning Babies
Evidence Based Birth

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If you enjoyed this episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends!

Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from you and will strive to feature your questions and comments on upcoming shows.

You can sign up for online HypnoBirthing childbirth classes for pregnant couples taught by Cynthia Overgard, as well as online breastfeeding classes and weekly postpartum support groups run by Cynthia & Trisha at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

View Episode Transcript

We are being hired now for clients that may be birthing during this time. So we might not ever have that face to face and hands on with that particular client. So unfortunately we are losing a piece of that.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast.
Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Hello everyone and thanks for joining us today on this bonus episode of the Down to Earth show. Trisha and I have decided to put out a few bonus Miss episodes these days because there is so much going on in the industry with respect to COVID-19 and how that's not only impacting protocols around birth in the birthing room, but it's also affecting women's relationships with doulas, which is what we're going to talk about today. We received a question from one of our listeners on this topic and we decided to bring in Colleen Myatt from beautiful births and beyond who is going to answer our questions. Now, Colleen, you're a birth doula and a postpartum doula, right?


All right, terrific. So let's get started with having Trisha read that listener question. Trisha, you've got that question on hand to ask Colleen. Right?

I sure do. Okay, let's get started. I recently interviewed a doula that my husband and I were about to hire with social distancing in effect, I'm not sure what expectations to have, especially since we are expected to pay her in full upfront. So I was hoping you could answer this one. What kind of Support does a doula typically provide during pregnancy that doesn't require in person contact and to have a doula be able to support us through the birth if she can't come to the hospital?

Are you hearing a lot of these questions Colleen these days?

Yes, I am. A lot of clients reaching out wondering, you know, how are we going to move forward? How is this going to be different? In general, that doula is for emotional, physical, and, you know, informational support. So what changes now with COVID? You know, sometimes when I'm hired, I don't even do that first prenatal appointment. We are actually together until about 20 weeks, so sometimes it can be 10 weeks and what I'm doing then is the informational support and the emotional support and phone calls and texts and zoom. So in that area, it does not change You know, and then I've been holding prenatal virtual appointments. What I do is, you know, because I have a welcome packet, I sent that along ahead of time. And then we're going through all of that together. So as far as that aspect for myself and then my dual colleagues who have been talking to hasn't changed, the client still feel very supported. I'm still there for sliding to contact when they have questions and sending, you know, the appropriate links or whatever, you know, depending on what is going on. So we're really changes is come birthing day, which is you know, doulas been working with their clients and leading up to this big day and now all of a sudden, how are we going to do that? They do have to choose between their partner and their doula and understandably most of the time it is the partner that is being chosen. So how am I or any doula going to support their client? So what we've been doing is virtual support. We're setting up, you know, a live stream where I'm able to see everything that is going on and the partner is the doulas hands. You know, the doula is going to help and guide the partner with massage, acupressure points, you know, different positions to get the laboring mother in, you know, everything that we would be, you know, doulas would be doing in the birthing space, whether that is going to be a hospital birth, you know, birthing center birth or home birth, you know, if even home birth set could be limited to how many people can be attending depending on the midwife. So, you know, it has been a big concern with birthing couples. You know, it their wishes not to, you know, leave anybody out and they want to feel supported. So that's where the big changes.

Is there typically any contact during those appointments? Is everything just over a table over a cup of tea? Or are there any techniques that are hands on during those prenatals?

I am hands on because, you know, we're going over, you know, different positions that we might be using what I might be doing hands on, you know, I don't want the first time I lay hands on a client to be at the birth, you know, we want to have that connection and already, you know, have hands on with them. So in comfort level, that makes sense. Exactly, exactly. And so now, you know, some couples are hiring doulas that might not ever have a face to face with their doula. So, you know, a lot of support from doulas too. client is hands on and that physical connection. So unfortunately, we are losing a piece of that. We are being hired now for clients that may be birthing during this time. So we might not ever have that face to face and hands on with that particular client, if it's not somebody that we've been working with prior to this. So that's really unfortunate and it is different. But we are definitely doing the best that we can to support clients the best way possible.

So it's really impressive and exciting how we can all sort of pivot and change how we are operating and helping and supporting people through digital services. And it sounds like it's working well for the prenatal care. I'm very curious to know how it's working in the actual birthing environment. Are you finding that hospitals are being supportive have digital doulas
at what is it like? Actually? Yes, they are. The nurses have so much pressure on them right now and they might even be short staffed. So knowing that even though the professional in the room isn't physically there, she is virtually there are he you know, there are men doulas as well. So the doula being virtual does help the staff, the nursing staff and the OBS and the midwives because even though the birth professional is not in the room physically, we are in the room virtually helping the birthing person. I think that nurses right now they could be understaffed. They're very stressed. And just knowing that somebody is there to help the partner, the partners not feeling alone. He knows that the doula is there. Were guiding you know, the partner the whole time and you know, it's Just really seems to help everybody.

Is it? Are you doing this like through a phone so it's easy to move around and show what's happening? are you setting up a laptop? It is very, it varies because most of you know, personally my clients are using iPads. Okay? So you know, but you can use a phone, it's it would be harder for them to bring a laptop into a zoom only because it's, you know, if the birthing persons in the bathroom or in the shower or in a tub or something, you want something to be able to move around a lot. Yeah, get up close and Exactly.

Colleen, one other part of doula care that's really important is the postpartum support. Are you able to then visit the moms in their homes for postpartum or are you still doing this digitally and how is that working and what does that look like?

It's a it's a little of both. Honestly, you know, the doulas that I am mostly in contact with we're, you know, figuring this out. And it's a day by day, you know basis. And it depends on the level of comfort for the doula and the level of comfort for the family. So I did do some postpartum support personally last week, and all went well, but some people might not be comfortable with that. And what's really hard is that part of postpartum when we're going, you know, to the home after doulas were debriefing the birth, we're giving support with breastfeeding. I'm a certified lactation counselor. So you know, I'm always trying to, you know, help with the breastfeeding support as much as possible and not being there hands on for that and be a little bit more difficult, trying to position the baby correctly and you know, it's just Anyone who's done lactation support knows how difficult that can be virtual.

It's very frustrating. You wanna you want to reach through the computer and just put your hands there. Exactly. We want to be there. We want to be able to be hands on. Yeah, we can help the partner with that. And there's our videos to send as well. But what we're losing once again, is that in person feel, and, you know, we're just, we're all just doing the best that we can and a uncertain situation. Sometimes, you know, with a brand new baby, people don't necessarily want someone coming in even if it is your doula, because we, you know, we just don't know, you know, the, you could be symptomatic for 14 days and you don't know so well. One of the challenges that postpartum moms are facing right now is that they are leaving the hospital Sooner in order to create more space in the hospital in order to reduce their risk of exposure, so it sounds like moms are going home in less than 24 hours, and then they're not necessarily seeing anyone for weeks. So I would think that you have this postpartum support in person would be really helpful if we can ensure that, you know, proper hygiene and protocols and even personal protective equipment are available.

Absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, I am willing to go in with a face mask and gloves and, you know, my personal comfort level is okay with that, but it's, you know, it's for doulas per family and what their comfort level is.

Well, on the bright side. One of the greatest values of having a postpartum session with a mother and her newborn is that you can debrief the birth With her, you can allow her to process her birth experience. And you can check in with how she's doing emotionally, and provide the friendship and comfort and support and education that she needs. And that can be done virtually, if there is a silver lining here that you can provide at least as much of that support virtually as you ever could. The breastfeeding support is a whole different ballgame. But there's so much that we can do for her virtually because we can allow her to talk and process. Every woman has a lot to process after the birth positive, just remembering at all. Any questions or doubts she's had about it and he regrets there's so much value in just being there for her and allowing her to talk.

I would I would think to that, you know, having a person face to face even if it is virtually just to check on. Ask the question about their bleeding and are they going to the bathroom and can they take their blood pressure at home and can they take your temperature? I'm not sure if midwives and doctors or nurses are doing that after they discharge them from the hospital, I would assume that they have some type of way of tracking that but with so many women leaving the hospital early, that seems very important.

Gosh, I hope they are a Tricia, I think that's actually I view that even as their responsibility to do so to keep providing that medical care, because that isn't something that a doula can or should be doing. It should be their midwife or their doctor who say, we're releasing you earlier than normal. This is what to look out for get back to us on this.

I hope they certainly I'm sure they are. They certainly give them discharge orders. Okay. I'm sure that they're giving them you know, warning signs and things to call about, but are they actually having a face loss check in and if they're not just because of the logistics and the way they've had, you know, they're understaffed, and they're, the challenges that they're facing and thinking about postpartum doula support being virtual would be even more important.

So good point, a good stand in your right.

Yeah, and you know, and sometimes in the old way of doing things, you know, we check in a lot with text, and then we have an in person postpartum follow up. It's super important right now to just do or virtual, you know, postpartum follow ups. Because one thing you can't tell how someone's feeling through texting, but I can't tell you how many times the client will tell me they are feeling fine through text and then a call with them and they just break down.

Absolutely. That's the point.

And, and then next level, being able to see their face just right, having if you do a zoom and being able to actually see the expression on their face, and you know, it's very easy to just give a quick response of Yeah, things are good.

Yeah, exactly. And having a new baby and of itself. Is isolating. And now you can't even you know, leave the home if you want to, or bring anybody over to see me maybe, exactly. I mean, think about, you know, the grandparents and you know, people who normally would be flocking at least to come see the baby and help her. And that can't even happen right now because older people are such a risk. And then of course, the baby is at risk. So it's just, you know, we're just doing everything that we can to make sure that our clients know that we are there for them. I tell clients, they can call me at any time even in the middle of the night because you know, this is not your regular circumstance.

So great. Colleen, thanks so much for coming on the show and answering these questions for us. It's touching to hear that all of you doulas are staying in contact with each other. sharing ideas and best practices if you hear that you guys are going so much above and beyond what you normally do to support women through this time. It really is so hard for them. On top of all the usual, even getting food into bass is hard, even worrying about their own parents is hard and the health of their loved ones when we all really need to be looking out for them and taking care of them. So it's inspiring. Thanks so much for being here and answering this.

You're welcome. And thank you so much for having me.

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If you enjoyed this podcast episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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