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Video conferencing technology becomes valuable asset for doulas because of social distancing requirements

COURTESY PHOTO: VELVET FLARE PHOTOGRAPHY OF ESTACADA - Ashlee Ennis, owner of Four Feasons Doula, has been connecting with clients using online video conferencing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Estacada-based doula Ashlee Ennis is typically in the delivery room with her clients as they give birth.

However, during the time of the coronavirus outbreak, this often isn't possible. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, many hospitals have limited mothers to one support person with them, along with members of the medical team, as they give birth.

"I would love to see hospitals treating doulas as part of the healthcare team. For the mother, it is. It's her emotional and physical wellness," said Ennis, who owns Four Seasons Doula.

Ennis describes doulas as professionally trained birth or postpartum partners, who provide non-medical emotional support.

She noted that while some doulas are using video conferencing services like Skype or Zoom to connect with mothers during labor, not all clients prefer this method.

"When have we ever had devices in the birth room? People want human touch," she said.

When one of Ennis' clients recently gave birth, she was on a video conference with them before and after labor, but not during the process itself.

"It was a lot different than what the client was expecting," she said.

Ennis also supports families before and after they welcome the new addition to their family. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these services have transitioned to online video as well.

While working with families before birth, Ennis focuses on what to expect during labor.

"We need to prepare them for what they'll see in the birth room. We go over the birthing plan, and I'll send it to them in an email, so they have a copy for the room," she said.

After labor, Ennis focuses on guiding families through navigating parenthood during the unusual circumstances presented by the COVID-19 outbreak.

"They went through (labor) almost alone. We talk about how to best support themselves," she said, noting that strategies include meditating in a quiet room. "We talk it out with them and focus on what it looks like coming home to a quarantine environment. We want to give them options. It's really different."

Discussing any concerns clients have is also a significant focus.

"We talk through their worries, especially within the system that we're dealing with now," she said.

Conducting services exclusively virtually brings a different dynamic to the relationships between families and doulas.

"Some new clients are finding it difficult to want to move forward," she said, adding that it can be difficult to forge connections without meeting in-person.

Ennis noted that this often is a particularly difficult time for expecting parents.

"I've seen many distraught families. They're grieving over their birth plan, baby shower or gender reveal party. Those were the norm, and now everything's been stripped away. It's really affecting moms and families emotionally," she said.

Additionally, though technology offers opportunities for connection, it doesn't bring the same dynamic as being in the same room together.

"It's hard to see our clients go through this alone. It kind of breaks your heart a bit," Ennis said. "If they need me, I am here virtually."

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