If you’re giving birth this year, you may be feeling nervous about how the pandemic has changed labor and delivery. Addressing the unknowns of pregnancy and the coronavirus can help ease the anxiety of having your birth plans changed by a global emergency. Here’s what we know so far about how COVID has changed giving birth for moms.
You Will Be Asked to Take Precautions
Because of the pandemic, the team of healthcare providers helping bring your new baby into the world are now responsible for balancing both your wellbeing and their own health, explains JAMA’s Viewpoint.
This has changed the labor and delivery process, but as we know more about the COVID-19 pandemic, the precautions necessary for keeping everyone healthy are becoming clearer.
Do I have to wear a mask during labor?
You will most likely be asked to wear a mask during labor. This requirement could vary from hospital to hospital, so call up your provider or check the hospital’s website to get the lowdown on what is expected of you. If you know ahead of time that a mask will be required, it may be helpful if you carve out some time to practice your labor breathing at homme with a mask on, or see if your hospital offers childbirth classes where you can get some guidance on laboring in a mask.
Why are masks necessary during labor? New research suggests that wearing a mask could help protect the people around you if you have COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC is suggesting that everyone wear a mask when in close contact with people outside of their household. This includes those who feel or appear healthy since pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people may be spreading the disease unknowingly.
What if I have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19?
Each time I arrive at the hospital for my own prenatal care, I am met at the door by a hospital employee. In addition to offering everyone a mask, they’re checking temperatures and asking a series of questions to see if visitors are symptomatic.
While each hospital may be doing things a bit differently, it does appear that many providers are screening for coronavirus symptoms before visits. Your provider might call before visits to ask you how you are feeling, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
If you test positive for COVID, your provider may take extra precautions like putting you in an isolation room that requires staff to wear extra protective gear. COVID-19 positive parents may also have the option of separating from their infant. But don’t panic—the CDC is advising that this should be the parent’s choice, not a requirement.
If you make the choice to stay separated, but still want to breastfeed, your healthcare team will help set up to express breastmilk for your infant since the CDC believes it is unlikely that nursing parents can spread the virus through their breastmilk. If you don’t choose to separate, you’ll be advised to wear a face mask and wash your hands while in contact with your baby.
You Won’t Labor Alone
In the beginning weeks of the outbreak in New York, there were reports that mothers were being asked to labor without their partner or birth support person. The state quickly responded by barring this practice. So, don’t worry—no one is at risk of giving birth alone. But there will be some changes to who can be with you at the hospital.
Your Birth Partner Will Be Asked to Take Precautions
If you choose to have a spouse, partner, or friend in the room during labor and delivery, your hospital may limit you to one visitor. Some hospitals may ask your partner to remain in the room the entire time.
Your hospital may also ask your partner to wear a mask and remind them to practice handwashing and social distancing as possible to protect you, the baby, and the healthcare workers present during your delivery.
You Won’t Be Allowed Extra Visitors
Extra visitors most likely won’t be allowed to join you in the hospital. This choice is meant to lower the risk of people bringing the virus into the hospital.
And while the ACOG does not have a clear stance on if doulas are allowed, their COVID FAQs makes a point to say that doulas are associated with positive outcomes for people in labor and supports following facility policy on allowing doulas. If you plan on using a doula during your labor, be sure to check with both your provider and your birthing facility for what restrictions are in place, and if any protective measures should be followed. The DONA International is also advising doulas on how to advocate for their clients who want them present during labor.
Get Your Questions Answered
If you have questions about pregnancy and coronavirus, don’t be afraid to ask your provider. Their goal is to keep everyone safe, including pregnant patients, new babies, and the entire healthcare team assisting with birth and postpartum care. Not sure where to start? These are the questions we’d recommend asking before your due date arrives:
- Will I need to wear a mask?
- Do my partner or I need to be tested for coronavirus before my due date?
- How are you keeping patients safe from potential COVID-19 exposure?
- What can I expect if I am positive for the virus during labor and delivery?
- What can I expect if my partner is positive for COVID-19 during labor and delivery?
- Can my doula attend my birth?
- Will my hospital stay be shorter because of the pandemic?
If you’re feeling nervous about the future and being pregnant during a pandemic, you’re not alone! Reach out to your healthcare provider and express your worries.
Consider asking for a referral for telehealth counseling for extra support as you navigate the unknowns of giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and don’t forget to prepare for postpartum as well, as new moms especially may face more isolation and challenges after giving birth. Your pregnancy health doesn’t stop when you give birth, and bringing a baby home right now can be more challenging than ever, so speak up for the support you need.