With regulations and rules in hospitals changing daily due to the Coronavirus, we thought it would be helpful to have an overview of what you need to know if you’re giving birth in a hospital during the coronavirus pandemic; this is a guest post from our friends at Arrow Birth. Read on to learn more about giving birth during this unprecedented time and a special offer for friends of Gugu Guru on Arrow Birth‘s Virtual Education and Courses.
What you need to know if you’re giving birth in a hospital during the coronavirus pandemic:
By Mari Stutzman Smith, Co-founder of Arrow Birth
If you’ve clicked on this blog post, you’re probably pregnant and facing giving birth in this crazy, unprecedented time. First off, I want to say we feel you. Everything is so upside down right now and everyone is worried and trying to do the best thing for the collective and for themselves. I want to encourage you to stop… and take a deep breath. It’s ok to feel all the feelings we have right now. This is a challenging time. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to just sit in what we’re feeling.
But, if you’re like me, when I’m done with acknowledging my feelings, I’m ready to make a plan. So the Arrow team got together to compile what we thought you might need to know before heading into your hospital birth in the wake of COVID-19.
From what we know so far, pregnant women and their babies are not considered a high risk population.
As you’re probably aware, due to your endless Google searches, there’s not a lot known about how COVID-19 affects pregnancy and newborns. This virus is new to the world so a lot of data just isn’t there yet. The World Health Organization states, “Data are limited, but at present there is no evidence that they [pregnant people] are at higher risk of severe illness than the general population.” That being said, it is important to remember that those people who are pregnant can be more susceptible to respiratory illnesses due to changes in hormones and the immune system. Newborns also don’t seem to be in a high risk population. As of March, the CDC has not reported any COVID-19 positive infants born to mothers sick with the virus. There is more data as the days move on, so this obviously might change with the release of additional studies.
Here’s what we do know – no age group is immune to COVID-19, so the most effective precautions to avoid the virus include washing your hands (the right way), practicing social distancing and avoiding touching your face, eyes and mouth.
Laboring at home for as long as possible can decrease the amount of time spent at the hospital.
I’m sure you’ve heard this in your childbirth class or talked about this with your doula – aiming to labor at home as long as possible has some real benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. It will reduce your time spent in the hospital and therefore reduce your exposure to people. This not only benefits you, your baby and your partner, it also benefits the numerous healthcare professionals you will come into contact with during your hospital stay.
Ideally, you would head to the hospital during active labor. Active labor is when your cervix is 6+ centimeters dilated and you’re having strong, powerful contractions every 3-4 minutes. But since you will be at home and not checking your cervix, it can sometimes be hard to know when to leave for the hospital. If you haven’t taken a childbirth class yet or if you want to learn more, consider taking Arrow Birth’s Discover course where you’ll hear from midwives, doctors and many other professionals about: the signs of labor; the stages of labor; when to head to the hospital; and so much more.
Bottom line – get comfy in early labor, reach out to your provider to let them know your status, and let your labor advance prior to heading into the hospital.
Visitor restrictions will most likely be in place at your hospital.
Recently, a few hospitals in New York City started only allowing the person in labor upon arrival, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo swiftly announced an executive order to allow women to have one support person with them at all times. My guess is that this will set the precedent among other hospitals throughout the country as we continue to be impacted by this pandemic.
Almost certainly your hospital will have visitor restrictions in place. Most likely, the birthing person will be allowed a designated support person to remain with them throughout the hospital stay. That means no switching between your partner, doula, mom, etc, and your support person should be prepared to be with you the entire stay.
COVID-19 tests might be administered upon admission.
In hotspots where the virus has spread rapidly, hospitals have been administering COVID-19 tests upon admission. In areas that are not experiencing an increase in cases, hospitals will likely only administer tests with the presence of symptoms or known contact with a person who is COVID-19 positive. What’s certain is that hospital staff will screen you prior to admission, oftentimes in the popup tents placed in front of the hospital’s entrance. They will measure your temperature and ask if you have been experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive.
Consider wearing personal protective equipment.
If you’re birthing in an area where there is a large number of COVID-19 cases, personal protective gear will probably be given to you and your support person at the hospital. Otherwise, you may want to locate masks, preferably N95 masks, prior to going to the hospital. If you weren’t able to score any recently before they all disappeared from Amazon, check your garage from that past painting project, text your neighbors or even post on social media asking if anyone can spare two masks. You might be surprised how kind people can be. If you can’t get ahold of N95 masks, surgical masks are the next best thing. A surgical mask is best at protecting those in contact with you, whereas an N95 mask is best at protecting you from others.
Additionally, wearing gloves prior to entering the hospital can protect your hands from picking up germs on items such as door handles, elevator buttons, and in public restrooms. Make sure to remove them once you’re in your labor room or, better yet, exchange them for a fresh pair and try to remember not to touch your face.
Virtual birth support is now a thing.
You don’t have to tackle your birth without the support you need. Doulas around the country have swiftly shifted their services to make available virtual birth support. Whether or not you’ve hired a doula for your upcoming birth or are just considering it now, you’ll benefit from the extra support. Doulas can help you know your options, provide suggestions for comfort measures, encourage you as you tackle each contraction, and advocate for you. Although physical support can’t happen virtually, you will surely benefit from their labor coaching, practical counsel and emotional support as you transition to becoming a parent. This is where we all say a collective thank you to the creators of FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Hangouts and all the other virtual connection tools we have available these days.
Consider an early discharge.
Some hospitals might already be suggesting or implementing early discharge but you can ask your provider if it’s an option for you. The usual hospital stay is 2 days for a vaginal birth and 3 days with a cesarean but you might be able to leave between 24 or 48 hours if all is well with you and your baby. This would minimize your exposure to additional healthcare professionals, benefiting everyone. Of course, if you or you baby need to stay for a medical reason, it is best to remain where care is easily accessible.
Prepare your postpartum support plan prior to your birth.
This is something you can do right now to be proactive and prepared. Think about your at-home support system and line up the necessary professionals to ensure a smooth postpartum transition. I suggest you hang your support team contacts on the fridge. Of course, you will have your doctor or midwife’s number but also consider Arrow’s network of professionals: midwives, lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, counselors, sleep coaches, back-to-work coaches and many more. They’re experts in helping you tackle the problems you will inevitably encounter. As a company, we’re designed and optimized for remote support which keeps everyone safe.
Another thing to tackle is your nutritional plan during the postpartum time. Consider ordering from your local grocery store for pickup or delivery which limits your face-to-face encounters. Due to the high demand, many stores offer dates only a couple days out, so order well in advance of your need. You can also call your favorite go-to restaurants prior to your birth to confirm they are still open for food pickup. Add this to the fridge list! I highly suggest meal planning prior to delivery so you and your partner don’t need to ask the age-old question of, “what’s for dinner?” during the already stressful first weeks’ postpartum.
Your emotional and mental health are important at this time.
While it’s very important to stay abreast of the situation in the world today, it’s also important to reduce your stress level. Consider limiting your news exposure and decreasing the time spent talking with people who stress you out (we all have our “worrier friends”).
DO find the time to move your body. Go for a walk outside. Take that online prenatal yoga class. If you find yourself needing more support, we have yoga teachers and Licensed Clinical Social Workers in our network ready to meet with you.
I think it’s best to break things into categories- the things you can control and the things you can’t. A few examples of the things you can control: your attitude, ability to turn off the news, exercise, filling your time with fun activities, decreasing social media time (it’s become like the news, hasn’t it), social distancing… and many more. Some things that are outside your control: the spread of COVID-19, knowing how long this will last, the impact the current situation has on future plans, new teleworking setup, others choices (to social distance or not), the availability of toilet paper, lol. Knowing what’s in your control can help you channel your energy towards those things.
The hospital isn’t the only place you can give birth.
If you are planning a birth without the use of an epidural and you are having a low-risk pregnancy, there are two other options you could consider to avoid the hospital setting; a birth center and a home birth. Google to find local centers/providers in your area and call to talk further. Given the increase in demand for these type of birth settings, they could fill up fast so, even if you’re due in a couple months, it’s good to call soon.
While we all are doing our part to #flattenthecurve, the Arrow team is here for you. Reach out to us if you have any questions, concerns or just need someone to talk to.
Special Discount for Gugu Guru readers: head to Arrow Birth and use code GUGUGURU to purchase Arrow Birth’s Discover Course for $149 (normally $349)