Preparing to welcome a new baby into the world is meant to be one of life’s most joyful experiences but when we’re in the middle of a global health pandemic, it’s a time of anxiety and worry.

With self distancing recommended for pregnant women, some mums-to-be are turning to doulas for support.

A doula is a trained birth support companion who provides practical and emotional support and information to a woman during pregnancy, birth and early parenting.

During World Doula Week (March 22-28) a Melbourne-based non-profit, Birth for Humankind are calling for greater support for their volunteer doulas so they can provide vital support to pregnant women experiencing disadvantage and social isolation, two issues being heightened due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Pregnant women experiencing disadvantage are really being hit by this crisis,” says Birth for Humankind CEO Ruth Dearnley.

“They can’t delay their appointments and many already face barriers to access the support services needed to improve their health and wellbeing. During this pandemic, we must ensure their pre-existing challenges are not being overlooked and that they are not being left behind.”

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Birth for Humankind doula and founder of pregnancy and parenting support organisation Birthready, Erika Munton, says during this time of self distancing, continuous support is essential for parents – particularly mothers – to support positive health outcomes for families.

“The issue with self-isolation and social distancing is that many mothers and families are feeling lonely. They can’t normalise their experiences, learn from their peers and receive broader emotional support to feel heard and have the knowledge to make informed and empowered decisions. Doulas bridge these gaps,” says Erika.

“Pregnancy, birth and parenting is a significant lifestyle change. Many parents do experience stress, post-natal anxiety or depression and when isolating it often becomes harder to identify those in need for additional support. In my experience, I’ve often played a special role in family settings to help them adjust to the many changes that come from having a baby

During this time of self distancing, continuous support for mums-to-be and new mothers is essential.

Erika says pregnant women and new mums need to feel emotionally and physically supported during this challenging time.

“While we might not be able to spend as much time together in-person during the COVID-19 crisis, we’re setting up phone calls, going for short walks in the park and having video conferences to keep women connected, supported and informed during pregnancy and parenting,” she says.

“It’s so important for us to provide that continuous care so mothers feel heard, empowered, prepared and confident to make health choices that support her and baby’s needs.”

To find out more or donate to provide women experiencing socio-economic disadvantage with free doula support, visit www.birthforhumankind.org.