The weeks before the arrival of a new baby is a time usually marked by great excitement and anticipation (and maybe some understandable anxiety). Due to the unfolding Coronavirus, expectant parents are likely facing even more uncertainty and anxiety over what to expect giving birth during pandemic. As parents ourselves, we sought to understand how labor, delivery and hospital stays during COVID-19 would compare to more normal times. Through information published by the CDC and March of Dimes and interviews with new moms, we broke apart the key pieces of information any new parent needs to know before heading to the hospital:
1. Expect the Unexpected
As you’ve likely heard, there is a lot we do not know about giving birth during Coronavirus. There is very little published information about the effects of the virus on pregnant women and infants. However, there are on-going studies and each day offers the hope of new information. For now, be prepared that information you hear one day may change the next. Make flexible arrangements and keep in close contact with your doctor and labor and delivery center.
2. New Protocols
Upon admittance into your hospital or birthing center, you’ll likely notice changes in hospital protocols, standard procedures and patient requirements. One of the new moms we spoke with told us how she and her husband were both required to wear face masks any time they were out of the room. “Doctors and nurses wore face masks, too.” She explained. In addition to face coverings and protective wear, some hospitals and birthing centers also require temperature checks for incoming patients. If you are running a fever, be prepared for additional testing for you and your newborn.
3. Limited Visitors
Many hospitals and birthing centers are limiting the number of visitors and support personnel. The CDC has indicated that in communities with proven community transmission, institutions may limit visitors to ONE essential support person. That person would need to be the same individual throughout the hospital stay. Prepare yourself by communicating this information with family members now, and make plans to telecommunicate. If you have other children, help them understand that they may not be able to meet their new brother or sister at the hospital. Plan alternate sibling introductions that may occur once your and your new addition have returned home.
4. Shortened Hospital Stays
Traditionally, uncomplicated vaginal births would allow for a two-day hospital stay. While uncomplicated c-sections may allow for up to four days in the hospital. According to one new mom that we interviewed, her hospital instituted early discharge orders.
Some moms may welcome the early return home, but it is a good idea to be prepared for any challenges with extended at-home recoveries. Ensure you have the appropriate prescription medications from your doctor and recovery products such as Tucks pads and perineum spray bottles and nipple creams. Check with your hospital or birthing center about arranging tele-visits with lactation consultants or healthcare professionals.
It is also a good idea to prepare food and snacks ahead of time (if possible) to ensure you are getting adequate nutrition for you and your baby. Enroll your partner or support person to help arrange meals and ensure you are getting adequate hydration.
5. Prepare for Closed Auxiliary Facilities
One new mom we spoke with told us that while the hospital and birthing centers were open, the cafeteria, coffee shops and gift shops were all closed. Many hospital cafeterias are operating as “room service only”. Encourage your support partner to bring snacks or meals that they will be able to eat during the labor process. It is also a good idea to ensure your hospital bag contains essentials like nursing bras, change of clothing, toiletries, and comfortable pajamas.
6. Isolated Recovery
Recovery for each mom is different, and these differences will likely be more extreme having a baby during Coronovirus. Many moms may not be able to have visitors or extended family to their homes. This puts extra pressure on new parents to care for themselves, their family and their new baby. If possible, take time in advance to think through plans and help scenarios.
Many beneficial services such as lactation consultation and breastfeeding support groups may still be available remotely. Check with your insurance provider ahead of your delivery to understand what at-home services may be covered by your insurance.
Think through other needs that you may have after your baby is born. Talk to neighbors about help with pets or meal preparation (if you feel comfortable). Stock your freezer ahead of time with healthy and easy meals.
The added stress that comes with less help and increased isolation may increase the occurrence of post-partum mood disorders. Please know that postpartum depression and anxiety are common and that there are many resources available such as Postpartum Support International. Even amidst having a baby during coronovirus, they offer online and over-the-phone help. Talk with your partner or support person ahead of your child’s birth to help monitor your behavior and mood and watch for warning signs.
While having a baby during Coronovirus may have created changes in your plan, there is still much to look forward to in your labor, delivery and recovery. Some easy preparation can help reduce stress and ensure a more successful recovery.
Are you giving birth during Coronavirus? Comment and let our readers know how it’s going. New mommas gotta stick together.