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Here’s what to expect at the hospital if you give birth during the pandemic

PREGNANT
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Things will be a little different, but there’s still immense joy to be found.

Hospitals around the world are taking extraordinary measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, and these new policies impact pregnant women and their families when it’s time to give birth. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prepare, and the most important things have remained the same.

If you’re preparing for a hospital birth during the time of coronavirus, especially in an area that’s been highly impacted by the virus, you can most likely expect the following regulations:

  • Patients may be allowed only one (1) support person to accompany them to the unit. That means additional support persons, like your doula or family members, may have to support you via video call.
  • Once the support person is screened and receives an ID band, they must stay with the patient throughout their entire stay at the hospital, from admittance to discharge. They might not be allowed to leave the unit or move about the hospital.
  • You will most likely not be able walk around the hospital or leave your room.
  • You may need to bring all items with you at time of admission, including what you will need after the baby is born (car seat, etc.) If you’re missing or have forgotten anything at time of admission, you may be allowed only one opportunity to retrieve items from home.
  • Your health care providers might be required to wear a face mask. Very few hospitals are having mothers in labor wear face masks too, but some are, so ask your provider what your hospital’s policy is.
  • At most hospitals, no visitors are allowed after the birth. Family and friends will have to wait to meet the baby after you go home.

These circumstances put unusual pressure on new moms, dads, and their families. As though preparing for a birth and new baby wasn’t enough, pregnant women are navigating a whole new set of unprecedented policies. But there are things you can do to prepare and make the experience as smooth as possible.

  • Pack your things in a rolling bag in case you won’t have help to get from the entrance of the hospital to the labor and delivery unit.
  • Bring a computer or a tablet with a stand so you can easily video call your loved ones or support people. Many doulas are offering virtual support services during this time.
  • Bring everything with you when you go to the hospital, from labor snacks to newborn outfits and your car seat. In normal times, pregnant women are advised to pack a small bag for labor and a big bag for after the birth, leaving the big bag in the car until transfer to the maternity unit, but instead you may want to bring it all with you from the start.
  • Wait it out at home as long as possible. You probably won’t be able to walk the halls at the hospital while you wait for labor to progress.
  • Don’t feel guilty about pressing the call button for any need or concern: The nurses are there to help!
  • Ask about early discharge. Some providers are supporting women leaving the hospital earlier than they normally would during this time.
  • If you have older children, take into account that your support person might not be able to come and go freely from the hospital. Women often stay at the hospital for up to four days after c-sections in particular, so this policy might affect your childcare plans and who you want to have as your support person.

Some things about your birth might look different than you expected, but fortunately the most important things will stay the same. The love you have for your baby, the joy you family will feel when they see that little face and introduce baby to family and friends (even virtually!), the sweetness of a newborn—and, yes, the sleepless nights, giant mesh underwear, and endless dirty diapers—will remain unchanged.

Focusing on the joy and love you’re about to experience might just be the secret to staying calm and positive in the face of so many unknown factors. The surface details might look a little different than you’d expect, but at the heart of it, nothing can truly change the experience of welcoming a new baby. Not even a pandemic.

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