Supporting Women in Isolation
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Supporting women in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue to support them once life returns to a form of normal.

by Greater Manchester Doulas CIC in Manchester, England, United Kingdom

Greater Manchester Doulas CIC is run by women, for women. We are Elle, Lauren and Amy; three doulas with the same vision - which is why we work so well as a team!

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During the lockdown, we have received an increased volume of enquiries from women seeking support during pregnancy and early parenthood. The reason for this is because whilst everyone across the country has been told to "stay home", healthy pregnant women are being given no option but to enter hospitals to have their babies. Homebirth services were cancelled and birth centres were closed. Many women who had previously chosen to birth at home or in a birth centre, both of which significantly reduce the rate of unnecessary intervention and caesarean sections, have been told that they can no longer do this.

This is no small problem. By doing this, women's rights have been stripped away and forced to birth in a hospital, quite often without partners due to childcare options being limited and hospital policies keeping partners out.

We predict that the ripple effects of these actions will last for many months and years post-lockdown, due to the nature of birth trauma and how it affects women long into motherhood.

Our aim is to support not only pregnant women but also women who are in the postpartum period, women who are particularly isolated during this time, women who need someone to have their back.

On average the police in England and Wales receive over 100 calls relating to domestic abuse every hour, (HMIC, 2015).

Can you imagine being in isolation with someone you fear, with the added stress that comes with being cooped up indoors? In the current climate, we are all being urged to "Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives." but for some, staying at home could be life-threatening.

According to the charity 4Children, around 3 in 10 new mothers may experience post-natal depression, bearing in mind that many of these cases are not reported due to fear of social services involvement or not recognising it.

Now imagine being stuck at home with a new baby, potentially having gone through a traumatic birth alone or in an environment that you didn't choose, and not having access to your family and friends because of COVID-19. With maternity services being increasingly stripped away and limited, women are facing an unprecedented level of human rights violations and unnecessary intervention. This will inevitably lead to a higher rate of traumatic birth experiences and post-natal depression.

In a study of 487 women, supported by the National Institute of Health Research, found that 60% of autistic mothers reported they had experienced post-natal depression. In addition, autistic mothers had more difficulties in multi-tasking, coping with domestic responsibilities, and creating social opportunities for their child.

Autism is very close to our hearts as two of our doulas have autistic children, and one is autistic herself. New mothers often feel isolated and as if they are not able to keep up with other responsibilities. This is sometimes multiplied for autistic mothers. Just having someone to talk to, who really understands, can be helpful.

We want to be able to support women of all ages, in all circumstances, to feel less isolated during the national lockdown.

We will be offering women one-to-one 'Holding Space' sessions as well as community support groups via video chat with 3 doulas, to talk about anything they like. 'Holding Space' is a service which offers women the opportunity to talk to skilled doulas who will listen, hold space and offer support that is right for them and their needs. It will also include an email follow-up with a summary of what we discussed and any useful resources.

For pregnant women, these sessions could be to support them in writing their birth plans, or navigating the system in its current state, or maybe to find out more about their human rights. For new mothers or mothers who had their baby years ago, these sessions could be to debrief their birth experience with doulas who understand and won't judge. For women experiencing pregnancy loss, or navigating abortion services who want a safe space to express their feelings. For women - who are mothers or not - feeling isolated, for whatever reason, and just want someone to talk to.

We are here to remind women that just because there is a global pandemic, it is no excuse for our human rights to be violated. You are not selfish for wanting to be respected or heard, and you are most definitely not alone. Our support groups aim to build a community of supportive women who can empower each other in a time when we are all physically apart.

The funds we raise will go towards any resources we buy or create to lend/give to women, the membership for the video conference platform we use to host the sessions, advertising the services and the doulas' fees for facilitating one-to-one sessions and group sessions, so that it is free to access for women.

Links that the stats above were sourced from;

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/what-is-domestic-abuse/how-common-is-domestic-abuse/

https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/postnatal-depression-often-unreported/

We originally set up this page to fund the set-up of Girls' Circles in our local area, to form community bonds and break down some of the social structures that cause so much harm to young girls and women. We do hope to get this project off the ground at some point, but it really requires face-to-face meetings, so it is on hold for the foreseeable future. 

To keep up to date on our plans for this though, please sign up to our newsletter; http://greatermanchesterdoulas.com/contact

Rewards

This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£25 or more

30 Minute Skype Call

An opportunity for you to speak with experienced doulas who will hold space for you, and listen to any previous birth experiences, current worries or fears around birth, birth planning support or advice on navigating the system. This can be given as a gift to someone else if it's not applicable to you.

£5 or more

A shout-out on our Instagram

Anyone who pledges £5 will get a shout out on our Instagram page as a thank you for supporting our cause!

£10 or more

A personalised birth affirmation card

For a £10 pledge, you can have a digital personalised birth affirmation card designed by Lori, one of our amazing doulas. She does all of Greater Manchester Doulas artwork!

£15 or more

A personalised affirmation card for any occasion

For just £15 you can have a digital personalised affirmation card for any occasion or just life in general, designed by Lori, one of our amazing doulas who designs all of our artwork at Greater Manchester Doulas.

£40 or more

60 Minute Skype Call

This hour is an opportunity for you to speak with experienced doulas who will hold space for you, and listen to any previous birth experiences, current worries or fears around birth, birth planning support or advice on navigating the system. This longer session will give you a chance to go more in-depth with anything that's on your mind. This can be given as a gift to someone else if it's not applicable to you.

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