Pregnancy is an exciting journey, whether you’re expecting your first baby or already have children. But giving birth in a pandemic can cause a lot of fear and uncertainty when it comes to preparing for delivery.
If you’re feeling anxious about delivering your baby in a safe, healthy way, you’re not alone. New moms across the country are navigating the tricky issue of coronavirus and pregnancy and have the same concerns. Rest assured, you and your baby’s health will always be your medical provider’s number one priority. Here are some of our tips for preparing for the healthiest delivery possible.
Is a hospital still the safest place to give birth in a pandemic?
Many expecting moms may be wondering whether a hospital is still the safest place to give birth, or if they should start exploring the possibility of giving birth at home. Ultimately, the decision is up to you, and you should give birth in the most comfortable place possible.
However, experts say that even in this pandemic, the hospital is still the safest place to give birth. The delivery process can be unpredictable, and being at the hospital means you can get instant treatment if something goes wrong or if you need extra medical attention. Giving birth at the hospital also means you can be certain as to whether or not you have COVID-19 – if you test positive, the hospital staff will be there to ensure a healthy delivery and help you develop a plan for care after you take your baby home.
Safety precautions for giving birth in a pandemic
Getting tested for COVID-19
When levels of coronavirus transmission are high in the community, your provider may recommend that you be tested for infection at the time you’re admitted into labor and delivery. If you test positive, extra precautions will be taken to ensure a healthy delivery for you and your baby during and after birth. Your doctors will monitor you and your baby carefully, so you can rest assured knowing you’re in good hands.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Once you’re in the hospital, you may notice your doctors and nurses are wearing much more safety equipment than usual, including additional eye protection and specialized masks. This additional equipment allows them to safely care for you and help you through the delivery process without exposing you (or themselves) to any germs or viruses, including COVID-19.
Again, if you’re giving birth at a time where the level of community transmission of COVID-19 is high, your hospital may limit the amount of people who are permitted to visit you in the hospital. While this may be upsetting and less-than-ideal, this rule is in place to keep you and your new baby as safe and healthy as possible. It also ensures other patients are not at additional risk for contracting any illnesses. Here at Valleywise Health, we keep our visitation information updated on a regular basis on our website.
As long as you’ve tested negative for COVID-19 and your support person isn’t showing any signs of sickness, they will be able to come and go from the hospital as necessary – for instance, if they need to pick up something from your house, or if they want to go pick up some food for you.
What to expect during and after labor if you test positive for COVID-19
If you test positive for COVID-19 when you arrive at the hospital, your doctors will take extra care to make sure you and your baby are safe. Bonding with your new baby is incredibly important to their health and development, so the medical staff will do everything they can to ensure you can still be around your baby without putting them at risk of getting sick.
So far, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be spread through breast milk, and experts say the benefits of breastfeeding your baby far outweigh the risks. Breast milk is known to provide protection against many types of illnesses.
If you do have COVID-19, doctors recommend separating yourself from your baby as much as possible except when feeding or caring for them. If you choose not to breastfeed, pump your milk and have a healthy caregiver bottle-feed your baby. Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for your baby and contains important antibodies which help your baby fight gastrointestinal and respiratory infections. Breast fed babies have lower rates of asthma, allergic diseases, diabetes and SIDS when compared to babies who do not receive breast milk.
Your doctor and care team will work with you to figure out the safest approach to caring for your baby while you’re recovering from COVID-19. You will never have to navigate the process alone, and your baby’s health and development are always the top priority.
Protecting yourself from COVID-19 before giving birth
There are many steps you can take while pregnant to minimize your risk of contracting COVID-19.
If you must leave your house, take extra precautions when doing so. Never forget your mask, and stay away from people who aren’t wearing masks. As much as possible, avoid going out into crowded public spaces. As with all other infectious diseases, frequent handwashing is key to preventing infection. Have your groceries delivered if possible, and stay away from group events.
Studies suggest that pregnant women who contract COVID-19 have a higher risk of requiring hospitalization or developing severe disease compared to other healthy adults, so it is beneficial for you and for your baby to minimize risk as much as reasonably possible. If you have questions or are feeling anxious about how to avoid getting sick, speak with your care provider.
If you have a healthy pregnancy, at least half of your prenatal appointments may be virtual telehealth visits. Your doctor may ask you to monitor your health at home, and can help you get access to blood pressure machines or scales if needed. Telehealth visits are not only convenient and safe for you – they may allow more time to talk with your doctor. Make sure to be prepared for the discussion by writing down your questions in advance.
Even though there are many extra safety precautions to consider when giving birth in a pandemic, know that your doctor and care providers are doing everything in their power to keep you and your baby safe and healthy. Be sure to take extra good care of yourself throughout your pregnancy, and take steps to relax and minimize stress in your everyday life. Doctors and scientists are learning more and more about coronavirus so recommendations can change frequently and can be confusing. Your doctor will keep you informed of new recommendations and will talk with you about any changes to expect. Make sure to continue to follow regularly with your obstetrician or midwife to prepare for a safe delivery and for a healthy life with your new baby.
Still have questions about giving birth in a pandemic? Our Valleywise doctors are here to guide you the entire way. View our maternity services and book an appointment online or call 1 (833) VLLYWSE to get in touch with a caring medical professional.