Navigating Your Birth Plan in the Time of COVID-19

Navigating Your Birth Plan in the Time of COVID-19

April 27, 2020

Navigating Your Birth Plan in the Time of COVID-19

Navigating Your Birth Plan in the Time of COVID-19

Your pregnancy probably hasn’t gone quite as you’d planned—but it’s likely you’ve handled it like a champ. Morning sickness? Not so fun, but you figured it out. Ankles the size of grapefruits? Not the best you’ve ever looked, but hey, there are worse things.

But giving birth during a global pandemic? Probably not something that was even on your short list of worries when you daydreamed about what it might be like to welcome your new little one into the world.

We’re all living through uncharted times. As a pregnant person about to give birth, you’re likely feeling even more of a burden than the average person during this time of extreme uncertainty. Any preconceived notions about what your birth experience may have looked like have likely been tossed out of the window. It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed, scared and anxious about what may lie ahead.

The good news? You’re more in control than you may think. No, your birth plan probably won’t look quite the same as it may have prior to coronavirus. But it is possible to give birth during the time of COVID-19 and feel empowered, supported and in charge of many aspects of your birthing journey.

We sat down with Courtney Hart, a New York City–based birth and postpartum doula, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and owner of One Sweet World Birth Services to talk all things birth + COVID-19. What she shared is a must-read for every pregnant person who’s about to give birth among the realities of this ever-changing pandemic.

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting birth plans and the hospital birth experience?

The pandemic is forcing birthing people to readjust in a lot of ways. Many hospitals are testing pregnant people upon admission or doing regular temperature checks, both for birthing people and for partners. Laboring people are being asked to wear masks in case they’re positive, and when there is enough PPE (personal protective equipment) available, partners are being required to wear masks, too. One of the hardest parts is that a person in labor may be without their partner for stretches of time. A few New York City–based hospitals, for example, are requiring that partners wait in the lobby while the birthing person is in triage. Ask your provider in advance about what to expect so that you can emotionally prepare.

Many pregnant people choose to hire a doula for support during labor and delivery. If your hospital or birth center is no longer allowing an extra support person due to new coronavirus restrictions, can you use a virtual doula via a video platform?

Even if a doula can’t be physically present during your birth, we still provide invaluable support from afar! We spend a lot of time getting to know our clients and developing an intimate relationship with them throughout their pregnancies. We also support them through the many physical and emotional changes that pregnancy brings, and we prepare them for what to expect as they go into labor and head to the hospital.

Birth can take a long time, and if you’ve never done it before, having a doula to guide you through coping techniques can help you get through early and active labor before it’s time to head to the hospital. The hospital can be an overwhelming experience for people, and even more so in these extraordinary times, so we can also support during conversations with your providers and act as a sounding board for any questions that you have. And, people in labor sometimes just need to be reassured that they’re doing an incredible job—we do that in spades.

As long as you talk through the tech logistics of having a doula provide virtual support in advance, it’s easy for us to be present from afar.

What resources do you recommend that pregnant people can use both leading up to and during the birth experience to help them feel prepared, empowered and confident?

Leading up to birth, it can be really helpful to take a childbirth education class to understand what your body will go through to make birth happen, and many places have quickly adapted their courses to be virtual. (Manhattan Birth does an amazing one, for example.) There’s also a phenomenal video on YouTube by Osmosis about stages of labor, for people who want to do self-guided education.

As for what to use during labor, it’s helpful to think about what you naturally gravitate to when you think about calming and soothing techniques, whether that’s music, deep breathing or guided meditation. Testing out a couple of different techniques and figuring out what resonates with you gives you time to practice so that you can tap into what works, once you’re in labor. Expectful and Headspace both have great guided meditations.

Lots of pregnant people are feeling super anxious right now. Do you have any advice on how they can manage this anxiety during such a stressful time?

  • Even without a global pandemic as a part of the equation, pregnancy can bring up a lot of new and unique feelings—some good, but some challenging. It can be helpful to connect with other pregnant people who are going through the same thing. No one has ever been pregnant during a global pandemic before, and there’s always strength and comfort in talking to others who are going through the same shared experience. Find Facebook groups or contact local wellness organizations or medical providers—like yoga studios, your pediatrician or community centers—who may be able to connect you to support groups.
  • It’s really easy to get overwhelmed with information in pregnancy, so put down the seventh childbirth book that you’ve read and step away from the scary message boards, and find a trusted friend (or doula!) to talk to instead if there’s something stressing you out.
  • Try to keep moving your body with intention with gentle motion and exercise.
  • Get some fresh air and sunshine at a safe distance from others, since being outside can work wonders for our physical and mental health.
  • Share what’s making you anxious or worried with your partner, your friends and your family—it’s okay to ask for reassurance if you’re struggling.
  • Check out Expectful or Headspace for guided meditations and try to find a quiet space to sit and breathe, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for expecting moms who now aren’t able to have the birth plan they envisioned?

Even though there is a lot that’s out of our control right now, your rights don’t disappear just because we’re in unprecedented times. All birthing people have the right to have their questions and concerns addressed by their providers; to have the potential risks and benefits of any procedure explained clearly to them; and to have time and privacy to consider how they feel about recommendations made by their providers in non-emergent situations. Have an open dialogue with your provider in advance of going into labor to ask about anything that’s concerning you or causing you stress. You deserve to have a beautiful and positive birth where you’re respected and make your own choices over what happens, regardless of the unexpected circumstances.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content.