Before COVID-19, birth was always a shared experience with friends and family all taking part in one form or another. But the restrictions resulting from the pandemic have left many women feeling isolated and alone during this final homestretch. So much so that it feels we’ve gone back to the era our fathers were never allowed into a birthing room.
Although it may get quite lonely, it’s important to remember that the new policies and regulations are in place to keep you and your unborn baby safe. If you’re too scared, arming yourself with the right information can ease your nerves. So here’s what you can expect when it comes to having a baby during COVID.
What to expect when giving birth during COVID-19
Childbirth during COVID-19 is not a far cry from how it was before the coronavirus hit. The primary difference is that healthcare institutions now have a ton of measures to guarantee maximum safety for mother and baby.
I remember how frightened I was of giving birth (I am not good at handling pain). And now, having to go through it in the middle of a pandemic made me feel twice as scared. So when I found out I would have to go through C-section, I was a tad relieved for two reasons. I had not experienced as much pain and, this would minimize the potential complications that come with natural childbirth.
My due date was scheduled for July 14th, so my husband drove me to the hospital when the day came. When we arrived, the first thing we had to do was wash our hands then proceed to the screening section, where some nurses took our temperature. After confirming our temperature was within normal range, they gave us the green light to head to the check-in section.
The hospital had a very strict policy on the number of people allowed inside the facility. As such, only my husband was allowed to walk me to the registration point, and even then, he wasn’t allowed to take me to the delivery room. Thankfully, my doctor was very reassuring. Plus, the health practitioners wore personal protective gear the entire time, which also helped put me at ease.
The actual surgery took place really fast. I didn’t feel anything unusual except for the typical tugging and pulling that many women report. Soon afterward, I was taken to a different room to start my recovery. What made me sad was that I could not see the rest of my family, other than my husband, during the entire 3 day hospital stay. I was happy that they let him in, but at the same time, I’d have wished to share the joy of having a newborn with my sister and niece too. After all, they had traveled a really long way to see me and meet the family’s newest member.
Like me, you will likely encounter many restrictions when giving birth to your baby during this period. Here are some of the most common labor and delivery hospital rules during the pandemic:
- You will be screened for coronavirus symptoms and risk factors as you enter the facility.
- You will get tested for COVID-19 long before getting admitted to the hospital. In some institutions, you’ll be tested once more at least 72 hours before undergoing surgery.
- If staying at the hospital, you’ll be required to wear a mask at all times, except you’re alone in your room. It means that you’re supposed to put your mask back on whenever you have to interact with staff or care partners.
- You are only allowed to have one visitor after giving birth.
Accessibility to hospital or birthing center
Can lockdown affect your birth plan? An important aspect to consider when planning your delivery is where you’ll give birth. You can give birth at a unit operated by midwives (birth center), in a hospital, or at home. With hospitals quickly filling up with COVID-19 admissions and the harsh restrictions on having a birth partner present, many women are leaning towards home birth.
We understand that the choice of birth location is solely up to you. But there are several factors you should consider before choosing between giving birth in a hospital or at home. For instance, if you’re going to deliver at home, think about your proximity to the hospital. If life-threatening complications were to crop up, how long would it take to get you to the hospital? Would the emergency room even have the staffing capacity to process you in a timely fashion?
Sure, home births offer several perks like having your preferred birth partner(s) present and a reduced risk of getting exposed to the virus. Plus, research studies have proven that they’re just as safe as hospital births. But this mainly applies to women with low-risk pregnancies. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you’re better off in the hands of professionals who can comfortably tackle any complications and who have access to the operating room if the need arises.
Not sure what kind of pregnancy you’re having? Consult your prenatal care provider in the early stages. Overall, the points you should consider when picking your birth location are ease of accessibility, your needs, and the type/level of risk involved.
Hospital policies for a support person or birth partners
Before, women had the freedom to invite anyone they desired to be with them through the childbirth process. But COVID has changed how things are done. Research suggests that implementing labor and delivery room policy should balance the risks and benefits in the face of evolving information.
So how many birthing partners can you have? The answer to this is one or none. It means that if you were thinking of having a doula—a trained professional who offers emotional and physical support throughout the delivery—you might have to compromise.
Most facilities accept just one individual to be by your side during labor and birth. For instance, in the UK, pregnant women are allowed to have one birth partner with them to offer support throughout the process. The only condition is that the birth partner shouldn’t have any symptoms of coronavirus. In crowded cities, such as New York, the rules are much stricter. Presbyterian Hospitals’ labor and delivery room policy states that patients are no longer allowed to have any birthing partners with them.
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones to have your spouse or other birth partners with you, this freedom will most likely come with stringent conditions. For one, they’ll have to get screened before being allowed into your birthing unit. If they’re found to have any symptoms of COVID-19, then you’ll have to pick a different birth partner. They should wear masks or protective gear at all times. Furthermore, there’s a limit to how long they can stay after you’ve given birth.
Hospital rules for visiting baby
You should also ask ahead of time if the hospital allows visitors after giving birth, plus the number of visitors you’re permitted to welcome to see your newborn. Some facilities only allow the baby’s father, while others are a little more lenient. The limit on visitors can surely increase feelings of isolation.
Regardless of who’s allowed to see you and your newborn, there are a couple of rules they’ll need to comply with:
- They should wear personal protective equipment.
- They should practice social distancing.
- They should cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.
Postpartum experience during COVID-19
Although this helps to an extent, it can’t replace personal comfort and closeness: a hand to check whether your baby is latching correctly, a shoulder to cry on when things get too tough, or just someone to hold your infant as you take a bathroom break. Studies found that delivering a baby during the COVID pandemic could lead to dissatisfaction with childbirth and increase the risk of postpartum depression.
And this brings us to the question, is there any need to self-isolate after giving birth? Going through childbirth alone was hard enough. Why should you have to go through the postpartum phase alone as well?
Here’s the deal, newborns are most susceptible to diseases during the first 6 weeks of their lives. For instance, if they were to get a fever, this would certainly result in a visit to the ER. If you want to protect your baby from all sorts of health problems, your best bet is to self-isolate. If you have to welcome visitors after giving birth, be smart about how you go about it.
Here are a couple of tips we recommend:
- Have only small groups of people visiting at a time.
- Consider how the visitors have been carrying themselves. Do they practice social distancing? Do they prefer their goods to be delivered at home or do they go shopping at stores?
- Would they be willing to follow the measures you’ve set up to protect your baby?
The CDC has a more detailed guide.
FAQs about giving birth during COVID-19
Is there any risk of transmitting coronavirus from mother to infant?
Based on the research done so far, there aren’t any signs that this virus can be transmitted to an unborn child. But following childbirth, there’s a slight risk, especially if your infant is exposed to an infected caregiver.
On the plus side, early research indicates that infants don’t get gravely ill in case they become infected. However, it’s not clear whether this is because babies have a lower risk of contracting the virus or aren’t falling ill as frequently as adults.
Should you change your labor and delivery plans?
There is no need to change your labor and delivery plans, especially if they are solid. The most important thing is that you prepare yourself adequately. Know when your due date is, where you’ll deliver, and what you’re required to do.
That said, it’s important that you’re flexible and prepared to brace yourself for anything. Due to the current pandemic, you may be forced to change a few things, like your ideal birth location, birth partner, or even your obstetrician.
Being pregnant during COVID is scary, but giving birth is downright overwhelming. There are tons of restrictions put in place to keep you and your unborn baby safe. However, some of these policies leave you feeling isolated and alone.
While these changes can be frightening, you can find comfort knowing that you’re not alone. Thousands of women around the world are facing similar situations. Another tip that helps is preparing yourself with the right situation. Call your hospital ahead of time and get all your concerns addressed. Find out how many people can be in the delivery room, whether you’re allowed to have visitors, and more.