Earlier this week Motherly reported that multiple hospitals in New York City were asking birth partners to stay home during coronavirus pandemic, which meant people were having to give birth without the support of their partner or birth companion.
Banning birth partners and companions from delivery wards contradicts the World Health Organization's position on childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO states that mothers have the right to have their companion of choice present during the birth—and this weekend New York state's Gov. Andrew Cuomo recognized that, too.
On Saturday Cuomo's office announced an executive order in progress aimed at ensuring "women will not be forced to be alone when they are giving birth," according to Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa.
This follows a New York Department of Health Advisory issued Friday which clarifies visitation policies and " requires hospitals to allow one support person in labor and delivery settings if the patient so desires."
The advisory lays it out clearly: "For labor and delivery, the Department considers one support person essential to patient care throughout labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period. This person can be the patient's spouse, partner, sibling, doula, or another person they choose. In these settings, this person will be the only support person allowed to be present during the patient's care. This restriction must be explained to the patient in plain terms, upon arrival or, ideally, prior to arriving at the hospital. Hospital staff should ensure that patients fully understand this restriction, allowing them to decide who they wish to identify as their support person."
This comes as a relief to those who were petitioning for partners and companions to be allowed during delivery, and after a change.org petition demanding that attracted 613,678 signatures.
"I cannot express my gratitude to everyone that signed and shared this petition over the last week. To those of you that went further and tweeted, wrote letters, made calls, spoke to the press: I am forever grateful," New York City doula Jess Pournaras (who organized the petition) wrote Saturday.
Pournaras continues: "Together, we gained international attention and safeguarded the right of pregnant people in New York City to not have to give birth alone or parent alone. We set a critical precedent that should help to ensure the rights of pregnant people everywhere to have support in the hospital."
The WHO makes it clear: Pregnant people have the right to support during birth, even in a pandemic.