How to birth in the time of covid-19?
I would have never thought this could be a reality for Planet Earth but we kind of asked for it.
Finally after so many year of failed attempt – or extreme generosity from Mother Nature- we did manage to self inflict with a pandemic plague that is killing so many. Although, per usual, the sick and fragile are the ones paying the major price of the covid-19 virus spreading and the rest of us is left watching helplessly from the comfort of our own couches.
Perhaps you have been able to find the silver lining during this social-distancing days because suddenly you have all the time in the world to be with your children or tackle household chores, learn something new, sleep, discover your neighborhood by foot, connect virtually with your long distance family and friends.
Or perhaps you suddenly have it worst than before because you do not have a community helping you through hardship and you are left to fend for yourself more than ever- I can’t imagine being homeless and having even less help right now with all the volunteering centers and shelters being closed.
What is certain is that these are very strange, unsettling times and no one can predict exactly what will happen. We only have control of how we manage our present and our response to the sad but real circumstances.
When it comes to birth, there are few rules we, as women, have to respect if we want to birth in a hospital settings vs home and unfortunately, yet again, the hospitals policies that have been put in place during the covid-19 spreading, are everything but protective of women’s rights.
Many hospitals are currently prohibiting birthing persons to bring their birth team with them during labor because of a non-visitor policy; which makes absolutely sense if you were planning to bring a mariachi band with you or every single cousin in your family tree to visit you and your baby right after birth.
But if you simply wanted to be surrounded by a group of people who make you feel safe and supported during the most vulnerable and precious time of your life, the sad truth is that your wishes will not be granted. Even if the policies slightly differ from one wing of the hospital to another, labor and delivery will have many mothers birthing merely on their own.
Also, if at any point the presence of the you-know-who-virus is suspected you and your baby will be separated for up to two weeks. TWO WEEKS!!!!
My friends, I am beyond myself! Hospitals that preach all the day long to be mother friendly are totally closing their eyes to the evidence that Doulas are essentials tools to a mother’s labor, that partners are part of labor as well and that breastfeeding is vital for a baby’s well being and it helps facilitating bond between mom and baby tremendously.
Not to mention that it protects baby from a million of different bacteria and viruses – crowned or not.
Separating babies from their parents is not an evidence base practice and even the WHO (World Health Organization) states that ‘women with covid-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so’ by practicing common sense and hygiene.
If you live in Los Angeles the following are my best tips for how to birth during the times of covid-19 spread. I want to emphasize that especially during these times, birthing at the hospital is not the best option for you and your baby, so whether you have ever considered a homebirth or not , this is the time to ask around, interview midwives and become as informed and educated as possible.
1) If you have a low risk pregnancy, consider birthing at home.
My own birth team recently hosted a about homebirth and I found it to be very explanatory and reassuring for the faint of hearts.
2) If switching to a homebirth is not a possibility, perhaps consider a birth center birth. There a few around Los Angeles that may take your insurance depending on your coverage and plan.
3) If you decide or have to birth at the hospital, aim to have a conversation with you OB and ask to speak or write to the medical board so that you can express your concern and voice your rights to bring your team with you at your birth. There are few template letters many birth workers have written that you can use. Contact me if you need one.
4) Ask your partner/Doula/Support Team to write a letter as well.
5) If you end up birthing alone, consider being connected with your partner and Doula virtually.
6) Birth at home as long as you possibly can. Granted that there is no sign of baby or you being in distress, labor at home as long as possible. You can have your Doula with you there and she can stay with you up to the very moment you decide to head to the hospital.
7) Rely on the grace of your nurse on shift. Explain your wishes, voice your concerns and if you find that you are not treated with kindness, please know that you can ask the Charge Nurse to assign you another nurse.
8) Ask to be discharged from the hospital as early as possible. Unless you birthed your baby via Cesarean Birth, you can request to leave as soon as possible as long as you and baby are healthy and thriving.
9)While in the hospital, practice the highest hygiene when your baby is here. It might be true that Labor and Delivery is not the ER, but anyone can track any sort of virus or bacteria by simply walking around the hospital. So it is important to wash hands frequently, and to refrain to touch your face, nose, and mouth.
10) Breastfeed your baby! Ask for help when you and baby are initially learning how to. Any nurse in Labor and Delivery is trained to support you with breastfeeding. You may find that everyone has their favorite latching technique and position, and it can be overwhelming at times. Take the tips with a grain of salt and keep only what makes most sense to you!
Finally please reach out. If you are giving birth in the next few weeks, make good use of social media to gather all the information you need to birth during the covid-19 at your best possible and most comfortable way. Ask for help, share your fear, doubts and dreams. Birth in unpredictable and we can only show up at our best potential to then let go of the results. BUT we will remember how we felt during labor. We will remember feeling loved and supported, even if the details might unfold differently than what we expected.
Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
“But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
“A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.
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