Here's how to adapt your birth plan during COVID-19

It is still very possible to have a beautiful birth.

coronavirus birth plan

The COVID-19 pandemic has been filled with uncertainty, change and adaptation. For pregnant women, there has been even more stress: prenatal visits are canceled or moved to telehealth sessions, hospitals adopt strict visitor policies, and family members can no longer travel to help after the baby is born. A season that should be filled with excitement and loved ones now might involve social distancing and isolation.

But I want you to know that it is still very possible to have a beautiful birth, and birth plans are still relevant.

Before we examine what labor and delivery might look like during a pandemic, let's take a moment to get grounded. Take a deep breath, relax your body and hug your belly. Feel the baby growing inside of you and imagine them in your arms. If anxiety tries to creep back in, come back to picturing that moment—your baby in your arms, safe and sound.

Now, let's chat about the process of getting them here.

I am a doula. When I meet with a client to discuss their birth plan, I always the following questions:

  • What's important to you?
  • Who should be a part of the birth process? Who has a calming presence?
  • What does your ideal birth setting look like? Think about aspects like lighting, scents, and baths or showers.
  • Do you feel safer laboring as long as possible at home or in a clinical setting?

I remind women that your answers to these questions may change as labor progresses. For example, you may love the smell of lavender today but hate it in labor. You may be modest now but prefer to be completely naked during labor. You may plan for an unmedicated birth but decide in labor to get an epidural.

A birth plan isn't a set of rules; it's a helpful guide for your support team and provider. It's also an opportunity to research evidence-based practices on fetal monitoring, labor positions, induction, interventions, newborn medications and more.

(Psst: All of this is covered in The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama! Order your copy today.)

Developing a birth plan can help you have thoughtful conversations with your provider before your birth. Remember that if you find that your provider does not support the type of birth you are envisioning, it may be possible to switch providers or birthing environments.

During this pandemic, women still have the option to create birth plans, research and discuss options. My hope is that women do not view this pandemic as a form of entrapment, but as an opportunity for education.

Here are 9 considerations to keep in mind when writing a birth plan during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Find out your birthing place's policies

Check the website or contact your hospital to find their current visitor policy. Ask if your partner is allowed to stay with you through the delivery process and during your postpartum stay. If so, are they allowed to come and go, or will they need to stay put the whole time? If yes, consider packing more items for them in your birth bag.

2. Ask about discharge plans

Ask your provider and pediatrician when they are comfortable discharging you and your baby after delivery. Many women want to leave as soon as it's safe to do so—though talk to your provider about what options will be safest for you.

3. Plan your route

Ask about the hospital entrance when you arrive. Some hospitals are having you enter through the emergency department while others have a separate entrance.

4. Look up sample birth plans online

If you have a doula, review some of their samples. Motherly's Becoming Mama™

Online Birth Class (which is free for COVID-19) will walk you through creating a birth plan, as well.

Draft your plan, keeping in mind the factors that are important to you. Review it in detail with your provider and make sure they sign off on the plan or explain any concerns. Your partner will be your greatest advocate at the hospital, so make sure they understand every point in detail.

5. Build your support team

Your support team is critical. One of the hardest changes during COVID-19 is the lack of physical support available to laboring moms. Know that a doula can still be of great value to you virtually, both prenatally and during labor.

If you plan to have a doula or a family member present, think about how they can provide virtual support (FaceTime or Zoom), and put those details in your birth plan. A calming, familiar voice can be a tremendous help.

Just because I'm not allowed to be at the hospital with my clients right now, doesn't mean that my role is eliminated. It's changed, but it's just as important as it's always been. Women need to be supported and advocated for through this incredibly delicate and important process.

6. Remember that the nursing staff at the hospital are also there to support you

Go over your birth plan with your nurse when you arrive and invite them to be a part of your support team. Let them know how much you need and appreciate their help in creating your birth environment and outcomes.

7. Consider all your options

If you're concerned about going to a hospital, or if you aren't happy with some of the answers you receive when researching current hospital policies, you may want to consider an out-of-hospital birth. Many women are switching to birthing centers or home births with midwives. If this is something you're thinking about, research options in your area and interview providers to find a good fit and someone you trust. Remember that home births and birth centers births are only safe for people having low-risk pregnancies; your providers can help you determine if you are a good candidate.

8. Learn about the system and the process

Now, perhaps more than ever, it's critical that you understand the birthing system you are stepping into. Be sure to do your homework so you can advocate for evidence-based care for yourself and your baby.

9. Consider your motivations

Are you making decisions out of fear or in confidence?

For example, are you considering an induction or scheduled C-section so that you can try to control the timing of your labor? Are you choosing an in or out-of-hospital birth simply because you're afraid of the alternative? If these decisions are driven by fear, they may not result in the best possible outcomes.

Instead, make decisions based on evidence and the guidance of your provider.

While we are walking through uncharted territory, one thing has not changed: You are incredibly strong and capable of bringing new life into the world. No matter how many people are in the room with you as you give birth, you are not alone. There are so many people who love and believe in you, and you have everything you need to get through this.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But, a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4 year old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year...

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keeping an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Following children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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