Pregnancy and Childbirth during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Pregnancy and Childbirth during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Let’s face it: pregnancy and childbirth are scary. Exciting? Yes. But, whether it’s your first or your fifth (we’re not judging), the nerves always play a role.

Add a global pandemic on top of it, and… well, it’s a lot.

But the more you know, the better prepared you’ll feel. Yes, it will be a unique experience for you and your growing family. And yes, it can be scary. But you can still get through it. 

What helps, though, is hearing from others who’ve gone through the same thing, and experts who can provide some actionable tips. That’s why we discussed pregnancy and childbirth during COVID-19 with a pediatrician, and also with two couples who gave birth during the pandemic.

The result is this post: a guide on going through the process in the times of coronavirus, and what you can do to make giving birth during COVID just a little less stressful. We hope you find it helpful.

Heads up: If you want to listen to the full interviews, scroll to the bottom of this post. If nothing else, seeing the faces of others who have gone through the exact same thing tends to be a calming experience.

Pregnancy during COVID: 7 tips for when you get the news

It’s that time: you get that positive result, and then you get another one (because let’s face it, one is never enough to believe it). You have to remind yourself that for pregnancy, positive is actually good. And you’re excited. Maybe you even scream a little.

But then, reality kicks in. There’s still a pandemic going on around you. Time to panic? 

Absolutely not. Now is probably a good time, though, to inform yourself with what you need to know about pregnancy in a pandemic.

If you, the dad, has that information at the ready, you can become a source of information your significant other needs to keep things straight. The best way to do that is to internalize these 7 tips.

(Don’t get annoying about it though. Trust me, being a smart ass will backfire in this situation. Save your humor for a snarky blog post… ahem.)

  1. Stay clean and safe. All those COVID-19 best practices, like washing your hands and wearing a mask and staying socially distant, become especially important now. There’s not enough medical evidence to know whether pregnant women are at a higher risk of COVID-19—but why take any risk at all? 
  2. Try to avoid unnecessary company. Yes, people will want to celebrate with you. It’s hard to tell them no. As the dad, you might need to play the villain and do it anyway. That baby shower might be better done virtually, and one of the couples we interviewed (Anna and Sam) actually had some pretty cool ideas on how to make it work.
  3. Continue your scheduled prenatal visits. You need those baby check-ups to make sure everything is on schedule and as it should be. Doctor’s offices know how to keep their patients safe, so you can trust them. They might even be able to schedule some visits via Zoom. Plus, you get to be in a room with another adult for a change!
  4. Get the recommended vaccines. Other illnesses didn’t just go away. That’s why you, the queen, and everyone in the household should get the flu vaccine as soon as you can. Your doctor will also recommend the Tdap vaccine to protect your baby against whooping cough, which has similar symptoms as COVID.
  5. Try some baby care education. In normal times, those baby classes at your local hospital are easy. But many of them didn’t necessarily translate well online. So instead, find some online-optimized classes (cough-Father’s Ed-cough) that you can both watch together.
  6. Trust your OBGYN. Information from the CDC, Mayo Clinic, and other sources is generally trustworthy. But, as Dr. Jack pointed out in our COVID birth interview, it’s also too generalized to always apply across the bank, and might also be outdated. Rather than Googling questions about health or concerns, give your doctor a call. They’ll have an answer that matches your situation. 
  7. Get reassurance when you need it. Listen: it’s natural to get nervous. Even though there is little evidence of transmission between an expecting mother and her little one, you’re still worried. Don’t let it fester. Talk to your doctor about any worry you have, and get the necessary info and reassurance early. That way, it doesn’t fester and get worse.

How to prepare for giving birth during a pandemic

The first seven tips get you safely through the first part of pregnancy. But before you know it, you’re coming up on full term. That’s when things can get scary, especially if you don’t know what to expect at the hospital. 

But don’t worry: you can still prepare to get it right, and take some of that anxiety away. Hopefully, these tips can help.

  • Learn about the restrictions. Call the hospital ahead of time, or ask your OBGYN. Every hospital has different COVID-era restrictions for its delivery floors; some allow two guests, some allow one, and some none. Plus, there are likely other regulations to abide by. If you ask early, you can prepare yourself for them.
  • Shop ahead of time. It’s a bit more difficult to safely go grocery shopping these days. So why not already get what you need in terms of both baby supply and your own medication and groceries? You can always freeze some meals. Shopping ahead also helps you get comfortable with curbside pickup options from your store of choice, which you’ll use plenty the next few months.
  • Get the nursery ready. Yes, this would be a to-do item with or without COVID-19. But you’ll be shocked how just working on that crib, painting the room, or hanging up a mobile can relax you. Especially that extra bit of preparedness of getting the room done early can give you and the mom-to-be a calming feeling that’s well worth the sweat put into it.
  • Test out that drive. Again, not a tip that’s limited to Coronavirus. But why not take a joyride, check out the drive to the hospital, and where to park? You can even get some (decaf) coffee on the way home. It never hurts to have a baseline comfort level with a drive you might end up needing to do at 3am.
  • Pack your modified hospital bag. You’ll need all the basics, and then some. Extra hand sanitizer is probably not a bad idea, and neither is a pack of masks. As the dad, you’re also more likely to be required to stay in the room during the stay, so pack some extra snacks. Pro tip from Sam in our interview: bring a sweatshirt, because hospitals tend to be cold.
  • Trust the professionals. This one might seem a bit obvious, but it’s still important to mention. Yes, Coronavirus case numbers are still high. But we’ve been in this pandemic for almost a year now, and hospitals have established safe practices. Following their advice, and trusting that they’ll keep you safe, can go a long way towards just feeling a bit more relaxed.

Ultimately, both of the couples we interviewed mentioned that the actual process of giving birth during COVID-19 was less scary than expected. That’s a good sign, and something to remember as that blood starts pumping on the drive to the hospital 

When the little one comes: 5 steps to stay safe and happy

And just like that, the baby is here! That little bundle of joy will turn your life upside down for the forseeable future.

And yeah, you’re probably still worried about what happens next. That’s understandable, and perfectly OK. Hopefully, these last few tips can ease even the last bit of worry, helping baby and proud parents transition seamlessly back into life as we know it.

  • Make safe contact. Usually, life at home after a new baby can get a bit crazy. Family starts wanting to drop by, many bringing food and even more wanting to hold the new arrival. It’s OK to put restrictions on that, but they’ll still want to help. Talk to them about a safe solution, whether that’s talking on the porch at a safe distance or establishing a no-contact drop zone for the dinners that magically arrive at your front step. For your closest family, it might be as simple as a pre-visit quarantine to enter your bubble.
  • Get that parental support. Mom support groups are online now. You can do some social distancing happy hours in backyards, as Sam did. Remember: others are going through the exact same thing as you. Sometimes, you just need to talk it out with them. 
  • Know what to do if either of you get COVID with a newborn. The CDC has some great guidelines on that, including whether and how to nurse your baby. When in doubt, though, give your doctor a call to get the most personalized advice on what to do. Babies are relatively safe from severe COVID symptoms, but you can never be too sure. Oh, and yeah: no facemasks or other face coverings on the baby, no matter what.
  • Talk about flexible hours. Yeah, you’ll probably need to go back to work sometime soon. Hopefully, it’s remote. But whether that’s the case, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your employer about whether or not those hours can become a little more flexible. That way, you get as much time as possible to enjoy with your new pride and joy.
  • Enjoy the time together. A timeless piece of advice becomes even more central when it’s just the three of you (plus any siblings). The first few weeks at home with a newborn are precious. Every parent thinks back on them fondly (must be dusty in here). You’ll likely have even more time for yourselves, so enjoy it. Soak up those baby moments, as uch as you can.
  • Trust yourself. We’ll let Dr. Jack take this one for us:

I think the bottom line is to trust yourself as a mom and a dad, to know that you know your child best, to go with your gut feeling… No matter who’s telling you what, what this monitor is saying, if you have a different feeling about your child, you go with that, even if you’re a parent, you will know.

A pediatrician discusses pregnancy and childbirth in the time of Coronavirus

Yes, you’ll want to talk to your own doctors. But chances are their advice sounds similar to Dr. Jacqueline Winkelman, who we interviewed on the topic recently. 

Dr. Winkelman (or, as her patients know her, Dr. Jack) is a pediatrician who was formerly the chief of Staff at Children’s Hospital of Orange County and is currently a medical advisor to a number of companies including Miku, one of our favorite baby monitors. In this COVID birth interview, she talks about pregnancy and childbirth during the pandemic. Here’s the conversation:

2 COVID birth stories to show you’re not alone

Let’s face it: everything is just a little better when you don’t have to go through it alone. Of course, you’ll have your partner in crime on the journey with you. But it’s also good to hear from other couples who have experienced the same things as you. With that in mind, enjoy these COVID birth stories.

Kristin and Scott

First, we talked with Kristin and Scott. Kristin gave birth on the East Coast in September of 2020. Here’s our conversation with them, which has been lightly edited for length.

Anna and Sam

Next, we talked with Anna and Sam. Anna gave birth in June, 2020, also on the East Coast. Here’s our chat with them. It’s been lightly edited for flow.

It’ll be OK. And pretty damn great.

Yes, having a baby in the middle in the pandemic is scary. Of course it is. But you, the new mom, and the baby are in it together. And you have some pretty good medical professionals on your side, too. 

It’s a good idea to inform yourself about the risks of COVID-19 during pregnancy. But it’s just as important to take a deep breath, and enjoy the miracle that’s about to happen. You can do this—because others like you have. And in the end, it will be a pretty great story to tell your coronavirus baby.

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