Giving Birth During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Will you be giving birth during the pandemic? For many women, this current situation may feel like a tough time to be pregnant.
In addition to the normal fears of childbirth and becoming a new mom, you also have to worry about exposure to coronavirus, making sure you have all the essential supplies you need, and getting through the postpartum period without the physical help of your village.
I delivered my baby in late March when the pandemic craziness was just beginning. A lot has changed since then and a lot is continuing to change.
Just like all states have different guidelines and recommendations, all hospitals, birthing centers, and OB/GYN practices will have their own policies for moms giving birth during the pandemic.
I try to keep this post updated based on current guidelines and recommendations but keep in mind that things are constantly changing. For up to date information regarding Coronavirus, refer to the CDC website.
DISCLAIMER: The information on the site is for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing on the site should be considered medical advice. Always consult your own or your child’s health care provider before acting on any information or recommendations. You can read my full Disclaimer Policy here.
In mid-March, I was 9 months pregnant and still going to work as a nurse at a community health center. We were screening patients for symptoms of COVID 19 over the phone before they came in for appointments and talking about starting telehealth visits. Things seemed relatively normal.
Then everything began rapidly changing. I learned the hospital I would be delivering at had stopped allowing visitors except one support person for laboring moms. Then, my husband couldn’t come with me for my non-stress tests and ultrasounds.
My daughter’s daycare assured us they were staying open unless they were mandated to close. Then, they were mandated to close.
Since I was near the end of my pregnancy, I requested to work from home. We no longer had childcare and I wanted to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus at work.
The recommendations and regulations were changing day by day. Feeling stressed out and anxious about the unknown, my husband and I began to prepare for giving birth during the middle of a pandemic.
For all the pregnant moms preparing to give birth during this pandemic, here’s what to expect and how to prepare for labor and delivery and your postpartum stay.
New Hospital Policies During the Pandemic
Security and Screening
The hospital is probably restricting entrances and only allowing people to come and go through one main access point.
Front desk staff and/or a security person will most likely greet you near the entrance. They will screen you for any symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. You will be asked whether you have traveled recently or have had any known exposure to someone with coronavirus.
All patients and visitors should wear masks upon entering the hospital. You will usually be able to remove the mask once you’re in a room but should put it back on whenever someone else enters your room. Whether or not you will be required to wear a mask during active labor will be based on your hospital’s guidelines and policies.
Because I delivered towards the beginning of the pandemic, hospital staff did not make me wear a mask. However, once we were in the labor and delivery unit, they gave my husband a mask. Staff told him to wear it whenever anyone else entered the room. He could take it off when the two of us were alone.
COVID 19 Testing
Although this was not a policy when I was delivering my son, some hospitals are now testing ALL patients admitted to labor and delivery units for COVID 19. Other hospitals may be testing only patients that are showing symptoms. This will depend on your hospital and state’s testing capacity and whether coronavirus is widespread in your community.
If you are having a scheduled induction or planned c-section, you will probably be asked to get tested the day before your admission to the hospital with a rapid SARS-CoV-2 test.
Because women rarely give birth on their due date, it’s hard to anticipate when a pregnant mama might go into labor. To limit the risk of exposure, you may be asked to stop working or begin working from home and practice isolation precautions about two to three weeks before your due date.
If testing is being done on patients whether or not they have symptoms, some mamas may test positive without knowing they could have the virus.
What If I Test Positive for COVID-19 Before Giving Birth?
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently suggests that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 may room-in with their infants according to the usual practice of the hospital. Positive mamas should try to maintain a reasonable distance from her baby when possible. However, breastfeeding is not contraindicated. For breastfeeding and newborn care, moms should wear a mask and wash her hands first.
You can refer to this resource from the AAP for more information on the care of infants born to moms with suspected or confirmed covid-19.
Similarly, guidance from the CDC essential states that it should be a mother’s decision whether she wants to room in with her newborn or have the newborn cared for in a separate location if concerned about the risk of transmission.
The current WHO guidelines do encourage skin to skin, room sharing, and breastfeeding with good hand and respiratory hygiene.
Support Person and Visitor Policy During the Pandemic
Most hospitals have instituted a no visitor policy expect for on the labor and delivery/postpartum units, NICUs and pediatric floors. If you’re not sure if this is the case at your hospital, call ahead and ask. Or check on the hospital’s website, they will probably have updated information available online.
Keep in mind that policies will vary hospital from hospital and state by state. In states where coronavirus cases are relatively high or increasing, no visitor policy may still be in effect. In states where the number of cases are trending down or staying stable, some of the heavy restrictions placed on visitors during the beginning of the pandemic are now being lifted.
For example, when I delivered, the hospital allowed one support person (my husband), who had to stay the entire time. If he left, he would not have been able to come back. Now, my hospital’s policy is more lenient. Laboring moms are allowed one support person PLUS a doula. And the hospital allows visitors between 1pm and 7pm.
There was a strict no visitor policy when I gave birth. It devastated me to find out my daughter wouldn’t be able to visit her new brother in the hospital. That feeling quickly turned to panic when I didn’t know if my husband would even be allowed to stay with me. Luckily, my husband was able to be with me the entire time.
I will stress that he was literally BY MY SIDE the ENTIRE TIME since he couldn’t leave the hospital. In addition, neither of us were allowed to even leave the room.
While laboring, the nurses encouraged me to walk around my room instead of the hallways. It was the same experience in the postpartum unit. I’m not sure if that is the case now but in most places, you will probably be encouraged to stay in your room as much as possible.
Eating Hospital Food
Be prepared for the possibility that you will be living off hospital food for a few days. Usually, patients and visitors have access to the unit’s kitchen, the cafeteria, and gift shop. While we were there, the cafeteria at our hospital was open to employees only.
If restrictions are not so tight where you are delivering, your support person may be able to come and go and bring you back food.
Since we weren’t able to leave the room, both my husband and I had meal trays delivered to us from the hospital kitchen. The options were pretty sparse. We mostly existed on grilled cheese, potato chips and cranberry juice for four days.
If you’re not sure about the quality of your hospital’s meals, I would recommend packing some snacks to hold you over! Alternatively, if your support person is not allowed to leave the hospital, check with your nurses on the postpartum unit if you’re able to order food from an outside location and bring it into the hospital.
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What You Should Pack For Giving Birth During The Pandemic
You should try to pack only essentials to minimize what you are bringing with you to the hospital. However, giving birth is an unpredictable process. It’s hard to know how long you will be there for and what you’ll actually need.
Utilize what the hospital is able to provide. This includes NOT bringing your own pillows, breastfeeding pillows, or breast pumps.
What Should You Bring?
- Something to keep you busy. Since you will most likely be confined to your room with no visitors, bring something to keep you entertained. I did bring my laptop with me and my husband brought a book to read. We spent a lot of time scrolling on social media, reading the news online, and watching My 600 Pound Life on YouTube.
- Clothes for you and the baby. I brought a few comfortable outfits to wear for after giving birth and a few outfits for the baby. I would also advise bringing slippers and a pair of flip flops for the shower.
- Toiletries. The hospital will probably provide you with toiletries but it is nice to have your own as part of your self-care routine. I bought some travel containers and poured in some of my shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and lotion to bring with me. Then I just threw them out when we left the hospital.
- Snacks. If you’re like me and love to eat, you might want to bring food along with you. It’s possible you will have to eat hospital meal trays for the length of your stay which probably won’t be the most delicious food you’ve ever tasted. Have a few snacks on hand that you know you’ll enjoy. Snacks also come in handy for those middle of the night breastfeeding sessions.
- Don’t forget your phone charger! With no visitors allowed, you’ll probably want to video chat with family and friends to introduce them to the new member of your family.
Make sure you have everything packed that you think you’ll need in case your significant other/support person cannot leave the hospital once you’re admitted.
I packed everything in a washable overnight bag. Once we got home, I threw all our clothes and the bag into the wash. I love The Weekender from Vera Bradley which is machine washable.
Related post: Hospital Bag Must-Haves for Pregnant Mamas
What If You Have Other Children at Home?
If you have other children at home, most families have two options. Either have your husband or significant other stay home OR have someone watch them while you are in the hospital.
The thought of someone else being around your children might give you anxiety if you’ve been social distancing but it may be your only choice.
The safest option, if possible, would be for both your family and whoever is coming to watch your other children to self-quarantine for 14 days beforehand.
If that is not an option, just take proper precautions. Request to minimize kissing and snuggling. This is definitely difficult to enforce with littles who don’t understand why. Continue with lots of hand-washing and clean and disinfect what you can.
It’s hard but try not to worry too much about what you can’t control.
Both my mother-in-law and mother helped out with watching my two-year-old while I gave birth and was in the hospital. They were both still working so my anxiety was high with having them stay at our house. I knew one of them could unknowingly expose my daughter to the virus (and vice versa). I questioned whether I was making the right choice. But I didn’t really know what other choice we had.
If you are making a difficult decision about who will watch your other children while you’re in the hospital, try not to stress yourself out too much. Talk to your significant other and whoever you plan to have watch your children about your concerns and fears.
We are all just trying to do our best to keep our families safe and stay sane.
Discharge From The Hospital After Giving Birth
Typically, insurance will cover a hospital stay up to 48 hours for a normal vaginal delivery and 96 hours for a C-section delivery.
If everything is within normal limits after you give birth, your healthcare team may agree to let you leave early.
I arrived at the hospital around 9am on a Thursday morning and delivered my baby at 9pm via c-section. We decided to leave on Sunday afternoon. We wanted to get out of the hospital and get our baby home as soon as possible.
I was feeling okay overall and my husband was going slightly crazy locked in one room for three days. We also had a two-year-old at home that we really missed. We opted to leave early and both my OB team plus my baby’s pediatric team felt comfortable with that plan.
If you’re not ready, don’t let anyone push you to leave early. Just know that early discharge can be an option if it’s something you feel comfortable with.
Postpartum Period During The Pandemic
The postpartum period can be difficult even in the best of circumstances.
You’re recovering from birthing a tiny human either vaginally or by c-section, both of which have their own discomforts. It can take a while for you to feel physically back to normal.
Emotionally, things may also feel unbalanced. Your hormones are all over the place, you are most likely sleep-deprived and trying to adjust to life with a new member of the family.
When you add a global pandemic into the mix, recovering from giving birth is a different ballgame. It won’t always be easy.
Some of the hardest parts of postpartum recovery for me during the pandemic were:
- Not being able to introduce our little guy to our family and friends right away
- Having trouble finding essentials (paper towels, toilet paper, baby wipes, etc.)
- The lack of timely delivery for certain items. I tried to order a rectal thermometer from Amazon to replace our broken one. The estimated delivery date was 3 weeks away!
- Having anxiety every time my husband went to the grocery store because I was afraid he’d be exposed to the virus but we couldn’t always find what we needed through online delivery
- Worrying about taking my newborn to the pediatrician’s office for routine wellness checks due to possible exposure to the virus while we’re out
- Recovering from a c-section with a toddler who was experiencing major cabin fever from being home all the time and not being able to play with her friends and cousins
I found it helpful to think of the positives and to remember what I’m grateful for.
Since we didn’t have anyone coming over to visit, we were able to spend (LOTS) of quality time together as a new family of four.
I could still wear my maternity clothes (which are so much more comfortable). I didn’t have to worry about doing my hair, makeup, matching my clothes. Also, I didn’t have to worry about other people noticing all the stains on my clothes that could either be from leaked breastmilk or baby spit up or something my toddler wiped on me…
Social distancing and trying to protect our baby from exposure to COVID 19 also meant we were protecting him from other contagious illnesses his immune system is too young to fight off.
Most importantly, I was grateful to have our baby here with us and for us all to be home safe and sound.
My experience of having my baby in March will be a lot different from someone who is close to delivering their baby now or in the upcoming months but I still hope this post was able to give you some insight into what it will be like giving birth during the pandemic.
The following are some other great sites for more information on pregnancy and postpartum issues during the pandemic:
- COVID-10 from Healthychildren.org and the AAP
- Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
If you are pregnant, what are your current fears or concerns about giving birth? If you’re in the postpartum period, how are you coping?
Wherever you are in your current pregnancy journey, I’m thinking of you and hope that giving birth in the pandemic is not as scary or difficult as you may be anticipating.
Originally published April 13, 2020
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