Why read: This is a detailed guide on what to expect when giving birth during pandemic.
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I had my pandemic baby on June 14th, 2020.
And YES! I had to wear a mask throughout the entire labor – not a very fun experience, I have to admit.
If you’re reading this, I assume you’re pregnant wondering what to expect when you go into labor in this unprecedented time of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
I can imagine all the frustration you’ve been going through during your pregnancy. Especially if this is your first one.
Don’t you feel that COVID-19 robbed you off of so many joys of pregnancy?
- Your partner can’t attend doctor appointments and ultrasounds with you.
- You can’t have a proper baby shower. The virtual or drive through ones aren’t exactly the same.
- Birthing classes have been canceled.
- Visitors aren’t allowed at the hospital – I was the most upset about this. My son didn’t get to visit us and meet his baby sister at the hospital.
- Social distancing means little to no help at home after the baby arrives.
- There are so many uncertainties that scare you.
And you swear if another person says to you: “That’s OK, the most important is to have a healthy baby!”, you’re going to kill them!
Yes, of course, you know that’s the most important. But is it too much to ask for a normal pregnancy?
And while I know no words of encouragement are good enough now, I want you to know I did it too. And so do many other women that are pregnant now.
So you’re not alone! Give yourself grace! Being a pandemic parent isn’t exactly a piece of cake.
But believe me, it’ll make you stronger and more resilient to what comes next.
Pregnant During Pandemic
It’s been over six months that the whole world was shaken by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. And we are still nowhere near feeling safe.
COVID cases in the United States are on the rise again.
So if you’re pregnant this isn’t the time to relax vigilance. Even if your state lifted restrictions, the best you can do for yourself and your baby is to continue with social distancing.
And that’s because there is still not enough information on how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and newborns.
What we do know from recent studies is that no one is protected. Unfortunately, babies and kids can get fatally sick too.
There have been recorded deaths among newborns too.
This is in no way to scare you!
But it’s better to be cautious not only to avoid the virus but also to have an easier labor. Because now most US hospitals do COVID tests in pregnant women before delivery.
And if you do test positive you’ll have a difficult decision to make.
Do you separate from your baby and quarantine for 2 weeks?
Or do you continue with bonding and breastfeeding your baby from day 1 even with the risk of transmitting the virus to your little one?
You’ll certainly want to do everything possible to avoid making that decision.
Pregnancy can feel lonely when you have to social distance. I know how you feel. I’d been social distancing for almost my entire pregnancy.
But it’ll be the best for you and your baby if you continue to follow essential tips of being pregnant during the pandemic.
How To Prepare To Give Birth During Pandemic
So your hospital tour and birthing classes have been canceled.
Luckily we live in the era of the Internet. There are plenty of online resources to help you prepare for your upcoming delivery.
Remember, you should take preparation for labor and take care of your baby seriously.
Especially if you have limited (or no) help from relatives and friends.
We all need some type of support system when giving birth and those first days with a newborn, check out if having a doula is right for you.
And if finding the right online resources feels overwhelming I have my own recommendations for you. These are for both free and paid online courses.
First, the good news is that parenting websites feel obligated to show support to expecting moms in these difficult times. Many opened their online courses for free access amid the pandemic.
By the way, breastfeeding and baby sleep are the most challenging aspects of parenting. So do take time to prepare while you still have time.
Believe me, when your baby arrives there will be times when you feel completely at loss. How do you breastfeed or bathe her or change her diaper or swaddle her? Or so many other things that’ll you do the first time and worry if you’re doing it right.
That’s when you’ll wish you spent more time preparing for how to care for your baby rather than decorating the nursery.
Let’s start with free resources.
Prenatal Class – Check out this Prenatal Class (Part 1, 2 & 3) on Youtube. These videos are quite old but are very helpful now as never before.
The Baby Manual – This class teaches everything you need to know about taking care of your newborn. The quality is amazing. And it’s free for the first month. So go watch it now, I’m not sure how long they’ll keep it free.
Tinyhood– All breastfeeding classes on Tinyhood are free now, and others are discounted.
The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama – Due to COVID Mother.ly also made their Becoming Mama Online birth class free. Again not sure for how long.
Lactation Foundation – Free online breastfeeding and pumping classes available at different dates. These run only once a month so check out in advance.
Lactation Link – Another free breastfeeding course.
Baby Center – Great video series by Baby Center that answers a lot of questions you might have related to labor, delivery, breastfeeding, and more.
Paid Courses I Recommend
While those free resources are great, I know they are limited and don’t cover all you need to prepare to give birth during pandemic.
So if you want to get a more structured and comprehensive preparation I’d like to recommend online prenatal courses by Liesel Teen. Liesel is a labor and delivery nurse so she knows a great deal about labor.
She’s created very popular online courses that have helped hundreds of expecting moms, like you and me. After watching Liesel’s video courses I felt more relaxed and better prepared for my upcoming labor.
A bundle of two courses will get you a better price.
Also, check out her:
Liesel has recently introduced another amazing course which will prepare you for baby sleep:
Hospital Policies During COVID-19
Hospital policies vary from state to state and even from hospital to hospital within one state.It’s important for you to talk to your ob/gyn about what to expect when heading to the hospital for delivery. Or you can call your hospital labor and delivery unit and get detailed information from them.Here are some of the questions to ask:
- How many support persons are allowed?
- Will you be tested for COVID-19? How about your support person?
- What happens if you test negative?
- What happens if you test positive?
- Will you or your support person be allowed to leave the room?
- Will you need to bring the car seat with you or leave it in the car?
- What’s the situation with food?
Policies at Mills-Peninsula Birthing Center (Burlingame, CA)
I gave birth at Mills-Peninsula Birthing Center in Burlingame, CA on June 14th, 2020. At one of my last appointments, my ob/gyn gave me a handout of hospital policies which was extremely helpful. To give you an idea of what to expect here’s what my hospital’s policies looked like:
- I was allowed 1 support person with me in the room. No visitors.
- Once we were checked in and entered our room we weren’t allowed to leave. My husband wasn’t allowed to leave the room either.
- Because we weren’t allowed to leave the room we had to bring all our belongings including the carseat with us in one trip. This was challenging. I was in active labor when we got to the hospital. My husband quickly ran for a wheelchair. We put our hospital bags at the bottom of the wheelchair. My husband had the carseat in his one hand. And had to push the wheelchair with me weeping in pain in it with another hand.
- I had to be tested for COVID before delivery.
- My husband was checked for symptoms. And his temperature was checked too.
- Although my COVID test came negative, both my husband and I still had to wear masks whenever a nurse or a doctor entered our room. We could take our masks off when left alone. All nurses and doctors were in masks too.
- Because we weren’t allowed out of the room, nurses would bring everything we needed – water, coffee, ice chips, popsicles, etc.
- We could order food 3 times a day for both of us from the menu. My husband’s food was free too. Again this was because he wan’t allowed to leave and get his own food.
While new COVID policies might vary from hospital to hospital, most of these are common countrywide. So plan ahead when packing your hospital bag. And have your husband pack a hospital bag for dad too. Bring lots of snacks. And don’t forget your phone and laptop chargers. You’ll be stuck in your room for days like in prison.
Being Tested for COVID
As I’ve mentioned above, most hospitals test pregnant women for COVID now.
Your support person will not be tested but checked for symptoms.
And if you’re nervous about this I’ll tell you it’s not NEAR as bad as in the videos that circulate Youtube.
The swab is tiny, it goes up both sides of your nose (NOT super high up) then you’re done. Or they can do both nose and throat. Was only nose for me.
By the way, the test can be done with blood too. So if for some reason you’re extremely uncomfortable with the swab going up your nose, check with your doctor if they can draw your blood instead to administer the test.
If you’re scheduled for an induction or c-section your ob/gyn might test you at your last doctor’s appointment. It takes 1 to 2 days for results.
But if you go into labor suddenly your test can be done at the hospital. Most hospitals have rapid tests now that take up to 1 hr for results. That’s how they tested me. My negative (luckily!) results came back in less than an hour.
My husband and I still needed to put on our masks whenever a nurse or a doctor would enter our room. We could take them off whenever left alone. Your hospital might have a different policy on this though.
The worst part is that I had to keep wearing the mask during the entire labor. Struggling to breathe while trying to push out a baby was not something I looked forward to.
But hey I did it. I’m fine now. And you can do it too! That’s what it takes to give birth during pandemic.
What To Expect If You Test COVID Negative
As I mentioned earlier my test came back negative and everyone felt more relaxed.
Yes, nurses and doctors all wore masks but there were no other special arrangements for us.
Except for the inconvenience of wearing a mask during the duration of the entire labor, this delivery went pretty much the same way as my previous one.
Although I was upset that my son couldn’t come and meet his baby sister at the hospital the silver lining was that with ‘no visitors allowed’ policy I could feel more relaxed and spend more time bonding with my baby daughter.
What To Expect If You Test COVID Positive
Again, the best thing to do is call the hospital labor and delivery unit to find out their specific policy on this.
Even if you take social distancing seriously, there’s still a chance you might get the virus. My nurse told me that a lot of women coming in test positive with no symptoms.
Here’s what I found out from my hospital and nurses on what to expect if you test COVID positive.
First, don’t fret about the thought of testing positive. The hospital staff will be super supportive and understanding.
While in labor, you might meet an infectious disease specialist who will talk you through your options and any recommendations they have.
Due to how little is known about COVID-19 you might feel the recommendations you’re getting are often conflicting.
That’s through no fault of their own.
Even the CDC and WHO often have conflicting recommendations that change daily.
Remember that whatever informed decisions you make will be yours to make. No one can force anything on you. Read the next section on your options and how to make the right decision.
Once your test results come positive, nurses will switch to PPE and severely limit how often they come into the room.
This is because of how long it takes to change into and out of the PPE.
You might be left alone for long 4-hour stretches as labor progresses as long as everything looks fine or unless you press the call button for something. Your doctor will be in PPE too.
Because of the nurses’ limited time in the room, you might feel like you are delivering your baby on your own.
The nurses will be at the ready through the second you need anything. They’ll watch your progress through remote monitoring and will be in when it’s time for you to deliver.
By the way, if you’d like you can show appreciation to your labor and delivery nurses for the amazing work they’re doing – especially in these difficult times.
Your Options and Decisions if You Test COVID Positive
Even if you’re sure you’ll test COVID negative, still discuss with your husband what would be the best to do in the unlikely event of testing positive. You don’t want to be making these difficult decisions when in active labor.If your COVID test comes back positive, they’ll test your husband too. Depending on whether his result is positive or negative you’ll have different options to choose from.If your husband tests negative, they’ll ideally want to social distance the baby from you. They will ask that you don’t hold him or feed him and that you sanitize your chest, pump, and let your husband feed him from a bottle.Of course, it’s the worst feeling to have a baby and not be able to touch and bond with him. But because there is not enough data on how the virus affects newborns, you might want to decide to self-quarantine for two weeks when you head home. Or at the very least keep the baby 6-10 feet away from you. You can still pump and have your husband feed your little one.Or if you’re asymptomatic and feeling great – i.e. not coughing everywhere and aerosolizing the virus as much as a very sick person – you might want to decide to stay close to your baby. In that case:
- Post-delivery, your hands and chest will be sanitized. The baby will be wiped down and placed on you for the skin to skin contact. You’ll wear a mask.
- Baby would room in with you at the hospital and breastfeed on demand. You’ll want to be diligent about wearing a mask and thoroughly washing your hands and chest before any contact.
- After you’re discharged from the hospital you’ll agree to head straight home and enter COMPLETE quarantine for 14 days. You’ll need to wear a mask at all times around the baby at home for the full 14 days.
If both you and your husband test positive, you might get a recommendation for the baby to be completely removed from you two for two weeks.Again, whatever you decide it will be your decision, nothing can be forced on you. So gauge all your options and go with what feels right for your family.
One Last Thing
No matter what, you can do it, mama!
Remember this shall pass too!
Just stay positive and strong. And in no time you’ll be holding your bundle of joy on your chest gazing lovingly into those sweet little eyes.
Good luck and stay healthy!
Have you had your pandemic baby yet? Was your experience different from mine? Did you test COVID positive? Please share in the comments what other recommendations you have to other expecting moms who’ll be giving birth during pandemic.