Getting the Birth Support You Need During a Pandemic

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Anticipating your labor and birth can always be a bit anxiety-inducing, but during this COVID-19 pandemic, it might feel like even more things are up in the air. If you’re planning a labor and birth in the next few months, read on to learn answers to some questions you might have and how you might be able to prepare, even as everything changes.

Will I have to give birth alone?

Probably not. Two private hospital systems in New York City (NewYork-Presbyterian and Mount Sinai) instituted policies barring support people (including partners) from being in the room with a laboring person in March. The policies were intended to minimize the spread of SARS-Cov-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But after there was an outcry from birthing people, doulas, and partners, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order mandating that laboring people be allowed to have a support person of their choice, according to a March 28 story from The New York Times. 

In most other places in the United States, it’s still okay to bring one healthy support person with you to the hospital or birth center. The key is usually that the person you bring be healthy, and it makes the most sense that they are a member of your own household, if possible, to avoid spreading the virus. If you have any questions about the policies at your birthing location, you can talk to your doctor or midwife or call the hospital or birth center where you’re planning to have your baby.

Can I bring my doula?

A doula is a support person who offers mental, emotional, physical, and psychological but not medical support during birth to both the birthing person and their partner. Doulas have been shown to improve birth outcomes, including decreasing the odds of cesarean birth. Despite the evidence in favor of having a doula at your birth, you probably can’t bring your doula and your partner. Because most hospitals have instituted policies that allow just one healthy support person for pregnant people, if you have a partner, you will probably want to bring that person instead. If you don’t have a partner, you’re still entitled to support! Maybe a family member, friend, or doula would be a good option for you.

Finding virtual support

Another option if you’d still like to have a doula, both prenatally, during birth, and postpartum, is to look into whether any doulas in your area are providing virtual support. For virtual support, your doula will support you with their expertise and experience, just not in person. If it would feel really good to have someone aside from your care provider that you can text, call, and video call with questions both before and after your baby is born, this might be a good option for you. It’s also possible that you and your partner could video call your doula during your birth for ideas about things to try if labor stalls or if you want help thinking through a medical procedure that’s being offered. After your baby arrives, a virtual doula could provide postpartum support by listening to your birth story, validating any worries you might have, and offering advice on baby sleep, feeding and quarantining with your newborn.

Consider childbirth education

If you were planning to take an in-person childbirth education class, it’s likely not still being offered. If that’s the case, or if you weren’t planning to take a childbirth class at all, consider a virtual class. This would probably be easier, since you can do it from the comfort of your own home, and it can still prepare you for birth by helping you know what to expect during labor and guiding you through writing a birth plan. Plus, since your partner is likely to be your only support person during labor, they can get good ideas about how to take care of themselves, while still being as supportive as possible to you.

Hypnobirthing is a great option that has both books and audio content that’s already available for home study, and many childbirth educators in your community may be moving their courses online. And while it won’t be the same as meeting in person, you might still be able to connect with other expecting parents, and maybe, when this is all over, you can meet in real life and introduce your babies to each other.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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