8 tips for giving birth during a pandemic, according to a doula
Pregnancy brings so many questions, but giving birth during a pandemic can be plain overwhelming. It likely seems as if your questions are never-ending, and the more answers you get, the more questions come up.
There is likely so much on your mind right now:
It's so much to think about, and it can feel scary.
As you think about your birth, one of your biggest fears is likely a sense of having a lack of control throughout this process. Mama, you are not alone. Thousands of couples are in the same boat, and I want to share some ways to cope with this shift.
Ultimately, I want you to know that it is still possible to have a good birth, even if it is different than what you had originally hoped for.
As a doula, here are tips for giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Grieve for the experience you didn't get.
Hold space for yourself. Hold space for the expectations that you had for yourself and your birth experience. It's okay to be sad, or mad, or scared, or even a little resentful that this pandemic has disrupted your perfectly planned birth goals. One of the best things to remind yourself is that while you can't control what happens, you can control how you react to them.
If your difficult feelings are impacting you significantly, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health therapist for help via virtual services.
2. Prepare for a new kind of birth.
More important than grieving the birth you won't have is finding the energy to adapt. Now more than ever is the time to get creative with how you will adjust your expectations to help you have a controlled birth experience despite the current outbreak.
A great way to start is by taking a birth class—there are plenty of online classes like Motherly's Becoming Mama™ Online Birth Class. Books can help, too, like The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama, which releases on April 14th, 2020.
The Birth Lounge Membership for expecting parents is another great service to check out. Surrounding yourself with positive, evidence-based information will help you feel more confident during this uncertain time.
Look for resources that comfort and inform you.
3. Advocate for yourself.
You may find that your appointments with your doctor or midwife are canceled or rescheduled. This doesn't mean you no longer have access to your medical provider—it just means they don't think the prenatal appointment was worth the risk of exposure for you.
However, you can request that a nurse, midwife or obstetrician give you a call to answer the questions you were planning to discuss at your appointment. You aren't alone, and help is still available to you.
4. Brace for the aesthetics.
When you arrive at the hospital to have your baby, you may see a different set-up than you are used to. There may be tents set up outside, security guards and nurses at the doors checking everyone's temperature, and medical staff in what appears to be hazmat gear! What a shock this will be. So spend some time coming to terms with it, and remind yourself that even though it looks scary, its intention is to keep everyone safe.
Say to yourself, "I am safe. My baby is safe."
5. Labor at home as long as possible (with your provider's approval).
This pandemic is changing the way that people birth in so many ways. We've already seen nationwide restrictions to hospital policies, as well as restrictions around the number of support people allowed at the birth. Providers are asking patients to call before coming to the hospital and are providing screenings to all partners to assess for coronavirus infection.
If you are low-risk, your provider may encourage you to labor at home for a while.
Laboring at home can help to reduce your risk of exposure and it will also allow you to labor in your own space with your own rules and with your own people without the energetic weight of COVID-19 hanging over your head. Many providers are recommending such already.
Remember, you need to check in with your provider when labor starts. There are some essential questions they need to ask to make sure it is safe for you to labor at home.
6. Know your options.
Be mindful of the information you take in so you can make educated and informed decisions when it comes to your birth. This includes unfollowing or unfriended certain people on social media if you find that their content is unhelpful or stressful. Try to focus on reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), or the March of Dimes.
One of the tough aspects of this pandemic is that expert recommendations are changing day to day—you will notice that even these organizations have opposing recommendations.
For example, the CDC recommends separating new moms and babies if coronavirus is suspected, while the WHO suggests leaving the two together for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding. Consider what options feel best for you, and speak with your provider about your preferences, understanding that hospital policies may vary.
Something else to think about is pain medication. For example, some hospitals have suspended the use of nitrous oxide as it is an aerosol comfort measure, and there is a concern about the transmission of coronavirus.
7. Find the control.
When you notice yourself feeling anxious or worried about your birth, try finding the control in the situation.
Does your control lie in laboring at home for as long as possible?
Is your control in the fact that you've prepared for months for this moment?
Maybe you've realized that not that much will actually change for your birth plans, and that's what makes you feel in control.
Remember that you still get to have a say in the care you receive. You get to decide where you birth, and you get to decide what happens to your body during this time.
If you haven't heard the recent news, the Governor of New York put out orders declaring that one support person should be allowed for every laboring person—this extends to postpartum and recovery.
8. Remember that you are not alone.
There is power in numbers. There are so many parents who are on this journey of entering parenthood during a pandemic. While this is a difficult time, it's comforting to know that you're not the only one feeling this way.
Social distancing doesn't have to mean isolation. Take advantage of the technological advances we have in 2020 to harness the power of human connection. Your online village awaits you!
This is a scary time to be pregnant, but you are strong. You are not alone.
Thousands of parents across the country are navigating this story alongside you. While this is very different from anything you could have imagined, it doesn't have to be a bad experience. You still have so much control. The choice is yours. Take the time this quarantine has presented you with and use it to prepare for this new birth experience. You can do this.