“Pregnant women and individuals in Hawaiʻi feel abandoned during the pandemic, and they are not wrong.”
That’s according to the Hawaii Commission on the Status of Women, which this week released the results of a survey of women who were pregnant or had a baby during the pandemic.
The survey included 106 women in Hawaii who were pregnant or had recently given birth in September 2020. The anecdotes paint a picture of anxiety that’s come to define 2020 for many.
Most of the women surveyed said they were only allowed to bring one person with them while going into labor. Nearly two-thirds said children other than their infants were not allowed to come to prenatal appointments. Most said they weren’t able to switch out their support person during labor, which was a problem for some who had other children at home. More than 6% said they weren’t able to have anyone with them during labor.
“It was a horrible experience laboring without support due to COVID-19 crisis,” one respondent said. “Since my spouse could not come with me until I was admitted, I had to labor alone until I was to their standards of dilated. It is scary and sad because you are doing it alone.”
The research was conducted in collaboration with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaii, a local advocacy organization. Tanya Smith-Johnson, policy director at the organization, told Civil Beat that the survey was partially inspired by the stories she heard from women in local mom’s groups.
She noted that nationally, women of color have particularly been affected by the pandemic and that extends to their birthing experiences.
“Yes we are a diverse place, yes in some ways we’re paradise but we’re experiencing some of the same kind of disparities that we are hearing and seeing on the mainland,” she said.
The report said more than 9% of mothers surveyed cited racism as a reason they received negative treatment from health care workers during the pandemic.
The report recommended that Gov. David Ige pass an executive order to address women’s concerns, including prohibiting hospitals from requiring women wear masks during labor.
A spokeswoman for Ige said Wednesday that she wasn’t sure if the governor had seen the report yet.