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Mukherji Proposes Bill to Ensure Expectant Mothers in New Jersey Have Access to a Support Person During Labor

Measure Comes Amid Actions to Bar Birthing Partners from the Delivery Room

To give all expectant mothers what they need for the best labor and delivery outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) is proposing legislation that would require acute care hospitals to permit one support person to accompany a woman into the delivery room during childbirth, such as a spouse, partner, or doula.

“No woman should be forced to deliver alone,” said Mukherji, a new father. “Research shows women with social support during childbirth tend to have shorter duration of labor, control their pain better, and have a reduced need for medical intervention. In addition to providing physicial and emotional comfort during labor and postpartum, support persons also reduce maternal mortality rates and alleviate the burden on hospitals by alerting staff when the patient is unable to do so.”

The proposed bill comes amid rising concerns about increased risk of coronavirus transmission, which prompted some New Jersey hospitals to make the difficult decision to prohibit a partner or support person from entering the delivery room.

Following the Assemblyman’s call to codify this right of expecting mothers into law in early March, the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) took action on the issue in a letter to all acute care hospitals. DOH has deemed one support person essential to patient care throughout labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period contingent upon the accompanying individual being asymptomatic and screened for COVID-19 as well as able to wear personal protective equipment.

“I respect the intentions of our hospital administrators forced to make difficult decisions in this unprecedented pandemic,” Mukherji added. “But with studies showing improved maternal health outcomes, lower stress levels during delivery, and the potentially life-saving role of support persons especially for women with pre-existing conditions like epilepsy, policy should follow the science. By abiding WHO and CDC guidance, this will lower the strain on our already overburdened hospitals.”

Research from both the World Health Organization and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support conclusions that continuous support during labor and postpartum provides benefits for women and babies. Positive outcomes cited include without limitation lower chance of needing a C-section, increased satisfaction with their experience, and reduced duration of labor.

Similar actions were taken by a few New York hospitals, which have since been overturned by Governor Cuomo’s executive order that ensures hospitals in the state do not bar a support person during labor.