If you are expecting right now, it is likely that you will be giving birth during a pandemic. What do you do?!?! First off: Don’t panic. Yes, things are feeling a bit crazy. If you are a birthing parent, you’ve probably only lived through one other pandemic (H1N1) and it wasn’t quite like this. People are losing their jobs and income, schools are closing, businesses are shutting down (temporarily or permanently), social distancing, there are statewide stay-at-home orders and lockdowns. It’s something none of us have experienced in our lifetimes. We are all feeling the effects and the last thing you need as an expecting parent is more stress.
“HA! Is this person SERIOUSLY trying to tell me to RELAX?!?!?” Yes and no. It is perfectly normal to experience some fear and anxiety right now. It is natural to have anxiety and fears when you are expecting under normal circumstances! But there are ways to reduce that fear and anxiety.
Stay Informed. Keep up-to-date on your hospital's policies. Many hospitals are limiting visitors in their labor and delivery units and have special rules in place for those visitors. It varies for each hospital. Our local hospitals have limited visitors to one person, with no exceptions for hired labor support. Visitors will be screened for covid-19 and must remain in the labor and delivery room at all times. There may be restrictions on the use of certain pain management techniques such as gas and air or using a bath. If you need to clarify policies, reach out to your provider or labor and delivery unit. They should be able to lay out what to expect when you arrive and throughout your stay.
Many doulas are adapting to changing visitor policies by offering virtual support and many are offering to help their clients labor at home before they go to the hospital. If you have a doula, have a conversation with them about how they are navigating this situation.
Be prepared. Even more than usual. You want to be sure you will have everything you need during your stay, considering you and your visitors will not be able to leave your room. Double and triple check your birth bag. Pack extra snacks and changes of clothes. Since your partner won’t be able to leave your room, they will come in handy.
Take a childbirth education and comfort measures class if you haven’t already. Having this knowledge can help reduce your fears, and at the moment these classes should be preparing you in light of the current pandemic.
Be prepared to adapt to changing policies. Things are constantly evolving right now, so be ready to roll with the punches no matter how hard they hit.
Trust your care team. Care providers and labor and delivery nurses are still doing the best they can to keep things as normal as possible. They, too, have to adapt to the changes this pandemic is bringing. The masks may be a bit off-putting, but it doesn’t change their standard of care. As I stated earlier, depending on visitor restrictions if you have hired a doula you will want to talk to them about how care may change. They will be able to explain what their virtual support looks like and will take extra time to prepare you.
Know that you can do this. You are having a baby. Pandemic or no pandemic. And you can do this! You are capable. It is hard when you have to make changes at the end of your pregnancy. While I didn’t experience all of this craziness, I had to make major changes at the end of my pregnancy. So my heart is with you. And I know how strong you are for going through this. When you come out at the end of it all you will be able to say “I had a baby during a pandemic!” (even though I’m sure you’d rather not be able to say that!) but, simply, you will be able to say “I had my baby!”
If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out. Talk to your provider, your doula, friends, and family. We are listening and want to support you through this.
Lastly, wash your hands and stay home when possible.