This season of uncertainty and adaptation has been particularly impactful on pregnant women, and we’d be remiss to not acknowledge the additional stress on this specific population as prenatal visits are canceled or moved to telehealth sessions. There’s conflicting information about how the virus may impact pregnant women and infants, hospitals adopt strict visitor policies, and family members can no longer travel to help after the baby is born. A season of anticipated preparation has been replaced with distancing, crushed expectations, and in some cases the threat of giving birth or recovering without the support of a partner, doula, or family.
If you’re preparing to give birth, and especially for vulnerable populations, connection and community is critical. I am just as passionate, if not more passionate, about the need for support during this global pandemic. As a doula and the CEO of Claris Health, a nonprofit working with pregnant women, I have recently had dozens of conversations with confused, anxious, or disappointed pregnant women. One thing has become clear: We’re not meant to live in isolation. It is not good for our emotional and relational health. That said, I’ve witnessed creative ways to build networks of support. My hope is that women don’t view this pandemic as entrapment, but rather an opportunity for education, creativity, and wonderful birth plans.
When working on your birth plan, remember that it isn’t a set of rules. It’s a helpful guide of preferences for you, your support team, and your provider to discuss and agree to. It’s also an opportunity to research evidence-based practices for labor, delivery, newborn care, and more.
Here are a few things to consider:
● Check your hospital website for their current visitor policy.
● Look up sample birth plans online or, if you have a doula, review some of her samples.
● Draft your plan keeping in mind what’s most important to you. Evidencebasedbirth.com is an excellent resource in blog and podcast form.
● Review your plan with your partner and provider. Make sure they are in agreement or explain any concerns. Your partner will be your greatest advocate so they should understand each point.
● Build your support team. Consider who can labor with you at home and through the hospital transition. Even if a doula or family member can’t come to the hospital with you, they can continue to be a virtual support. A calming and knowledgeable voice throughout the entire process can make a huge difference. Just because I’m not allowed to be at the hospital with my clients right now, doesn’t mean that my role is eliminated. It has changed, but it’s just as important as always.
● Consider your options and motivations. For example, are you considering an induction or scheduled c-section so that you can try to control the timing of your labor? Are you choosing an in or out of hospital birth because you’re afraid of the alternative? Decisions driven by fear may not result in the best possible outcomes. I’ve had clients choose the hospital and home births in the last month, and I’ve seen them wrestle with decisions and consider the pros and cons of each. All have had safe deliveries and are home with healthy, beautiful babies. I’m sure they would have loved to avoid some of the stress and changes late in their pregnancies, but for some, it actually encouraged them to thoroughly think through all available options and make the best decision for their situation. I have had a few women switch to a home birth, which surprisingly resulted in helping them achieve the birth they desired all along—in a familiar, relaxing environment, surrounded by those who could support them through the entire process. Thankfully, their OB’s were supportive and provided back up should they have needed a transfer to the hospital.
While we are walking through uncharted territory, one thing has not changed: You are incredibly strong and capable of bringing new life into the world. No matter how many people are in the room with you as you give birth, you are not alone. There are people who love and believe in you, and you have everything you need to get through this.