What to Know about giving Birth during Covid-19
Updated: Aug 23
Updated June 23, 2020 by: Sabrina Lewis
What a complicated time to be having a baby! All of the excitement, parties, hopes and plans you have about this experience may have to change, I am sorry about that, but hopefully this blog post will help you know what to expect during your upcoming birth.
I live in Charlotte, NC, so a lot of what I am referencing applies to this area, if you have questions about your home towns, I recommend calling a local doula or have a frank and honest discussion with your medical provider on what you can expect. The more informed you are, the less fear and anxiety there will be.
I will update this blog post when new information is given so that it stays as accurate as possible. This post is meant to inform, not take any political side or stance on the virus. From the information we in the birth community have been receiving, hospital visitor restriction will most likely not be lifted until a vaccine has come out to the general public.
Who is screened at the hospital or birth center?
Right now, every person to enter a hospital, birth center or doctors office is screened upon entry for a fever and asked basic questions about travel and exposure. This includes all staff on premises at the hospital. It is a fairly simple process with a touch thermometer that is cleaned with alcohol after each person.
Will my partner/support person and I be tested for Covid-19 when we get to the hospital?
At this time, if you are being admitted, the birthing person will be tested for Covid-19. You have the right to refuse the test, but if you do then you will be a presumed positive. This means that you both will have to wear a mask the entire time you are in the hospital and you are asked to not leave your rooms. If you are tested, then you do not need to wear a mask unless you have a temperature or failed the screening process. If the test comes back positive, you will then be asked to wear a mask for the duration of your stay.
Will my baby be taken from me if I have Covid-19, am a presumed positive or have a fever?
From what I understand, in our local hospitals, they are not separating the babies from the parents unless it is for premature births where the baby is going to the NICU. There is a letter that I recommend having with you in your birth bag that states that you refuse separation because of Covid-19. This letter can be found online, or send me a message and I will email you the template. In the case of the NICU, if you are sick with a fever or had your Covid-19 test come back positive, you will not be permitted in the NICU because of the danger it poses to all of the infants in the area.
Do I have to wear a mask to the hospital?
It is recommended that you and your partner wear a mask when you go to the hospital, are walking the halls or at doctor's appointments. If you have taken the Covid-19 test and have no symptoms then you and your support person do not need to wear a mask while you are in your room, unless your test comes back positive.
Are the staff at hospitals or birth centers wearing PPE?
Yes. All staff are wearing masks when they are in patient rooms, if you have tested positive for Covid-19 they are in gowns, masks, caps and plastic face guards.
Can my visitor leave the room and come back through out our stay?
If you tested negative for the virus, then yes. It is recommended that they wear a mask while traveling through public spaces of the hospital.
Can I have a Doula with me as well as my partner/support person?
There is not a standard practice yet with all hospitals around the country in regard to this. Here in Charlotte, NC it is a bit complicated. Novant Healthcare Systems has just announced that they will allow Doula's that have gone through the necessary steps to become a credentialed hospital vendor back in the hospitals starting July 13, 2020. Atrium Healthcare systems is waiting to see how that process goes before they announce what their decision on Doulas will be. Natural Beginnings is allowing Doulas to practice at this time as is Caromount Healthcare in Gastonia. All hospitals nationwide are cracking down and requiring proof of doula certification in order to enter the hospital. Many people are saying that their family member is a doula in hopes of having them in the room, the hospitals are aware of this and stopping it. If you want a doula, ask specific questions during your interviews on their ability to attend births and that of their back-up Doula. If you have questions, feel free to comment or send me a message. Most Doulas are offering virtual support at this time, it can be very effective if that is something you are comfortable with. I have seen many success stories with this tool.
Can I still have a Birth Plan?
Yes, a birth plan can be an amazing tool to assist in good communication with hospital staff. I suggest you go over your birth plan with your provider at around your 36 week appointment. It is best if birth plans are only one page, and easy to read. Be open to discussing your plan and possibly adjusting it based on Covid-19 restrictions. Ideally that is not what we want to happen, but it is a good idea to have a open mind when discussing it with your provider. Once all of the details have been discussed make sure to bring at least 2 copies of the final draft with you to the hospital, one for you to keep and one to go in your chart or with the staff assigned to you.
When should I go to the hospital?
There really is no difference in this answer because of Covid-19. You should plan on going to the hospital or birth center around 5-1-1. (Contractions are 5 minutes a part, lasting for 1 minute in duration and consistent for 1 hour). Follow the guidance from your birth classes, provider and trust your gut.
Can I still attempt a VBAC?
Covid-19 should not affect your ability to try for a VBAC. If your provider has already said that you are a candidate for it, then that should not change because of the pandemic
Is Nitrous Oxide still an option for pain relief?
Unfortunately it is not, Nitrous is inhaled through the lungs and since so little is known about Covid-19 at this time most hospitals have taken it away as a pain relief option. If that changes, specifically here in Charlotte I will update.
Can I still walk the halls while in labor?
Yes, as long as you tested negative and passed the initial screening. It is an excellent coping tool that helps labor to progress. I highly recommend it.
Can I still have immediate skin to skin with me baby?
Yes, it is highly recommended.
Can I still delay chord clamping?
There should be no restrictions because of Covid in regards to this issue. It is a good one to discuss with your provider before you are in labor.
Can I still encapsulate my placenta?
Yes, if your hospital allowed it before, then it should still be alright. If you are positive with Covid-19 or any other infection they won't let you take it home.
Can my Partner/Support Person cut the chord?
Yes, Covid-19 should not affect that choice.
Are there Lactation Consultants available to help me with breastfeeding?
Yes, here in Charlotte all hospitals have lactation consultants back on the maternity floors.
Will newborn photography be available while at the hospital?
Unfortunately no, in an attempt to reduce exposure, newborn photography has been suspended in all hospitals around the Charlotte area. I know of many newborn photographers who are still taking clients and going in to their homes, if you are interested, feel free to send me a message.
These were the most frequently asked questions that I have received. If you have any other questions, feel free to send me an email and I will try to find out the answer. Best of luck to you during this complicated time!