People around the globe have been adapting their lives in the face of the new uncertainties that come with COVID-19. For pregnant families, this may mean considering a change in birth plans to include an out-of-hospital birth setting.

An out-of-hospital birth happens at home or in a birth center instead of a hospital. This may be a more appealing option to families as they practice social distancing and try to limit their potential exposure to coronavirus.

If you are considering switching to a home birth in light of COVID-19, there are a number of factors to consider. Here are some key points to know when switching to an out-of-hospital birthing setting.

1. Don’t change your birth plans out of fear alone

If your birth plan currently includes a hospital birth, avoid switching your plans to an out-of-hospital birth solely out of fear of COVID-19.

This pandemic is understandably stressful and scary for all of us, and there are valid concerns surrounding giving birth in a hospital right now. However, it is also important to try and ground yourself—take an educated look at the whole picture before switching to an out-of-hospital birth at home or in a birth center.

An out-of-hospital birth can be a beautiful experience, but it is important to make your final decision from a place of education, not fear.

2. Educate yourself on your options

Good education on all your birthing options is the key to having a good out-of-hospital birth experience. There are several sources of information out there that can walk you through home birth and birth center experiences to help you determine if you are a candidate for out-of-hospital birth.

(Psst: The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama covers all types of births! Order your copy today.)

When people ask me what a home birth is like, I always refer them to the documentary Why Not Home, featuring doctors and nurses who work in a hospital but choose to have their own babies at home and the “why” behind their decision.

When reading studies, make sure they apply to you by looking for research on intended home births attended by trained and licensed midwives. Including data from accidental home birth and roadside-babies can alter the findings.

3. Do what you can to stay healthy

Out-of-hospital births are options for people with low-risk in pregnancies. So if you decide that this is the best option for you, staying low risk will be important. Now, there is only so much you can do to control this—things happen, and usually, high-risk pregnancies are no one’s “fault.” Still, there are steps you can take to stay as healthy as possible.

Good nutrition and supplements (that have been approved by your provider), exercise and a good support system play into staying low-risk.

4. Find the right midwife

Choosing the right provider is incredibly important. I always encourage people to interview several providers to find the right fit. Research your local midwives (ensuring that they have a current state license and a good record). Read their websites and reviews, speak with them on the phone, and then choose who resonates most with you.

At its core, midwifery care is relational—it is building a good relationship and trusting each other.

5. Consider a doula + your labor support team

In addition to your midwife, would you like anyone else to be at your birth (this may be virtually depending on the state of the pandemic)? Working closely with someone like a doula can help you to fill your toolbox with great relaxation and pain management tools.

When a woman feels relaxed, safe and supported in her birthing decisions, the hormones of birth (such as oxytocin and relaxin) flow more freely—this can help the birth process enormously.

This hormonal process is protected by creating a calm, comfortable environment for the laboring person. Ultimately, wherever birth happens for you, remember that you can have a beautiful experience—yes, even during a pandemic.

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