Y’all! It’s been a minute since I’ve had a good reason to write about birth, but with a few friends of mine in their third trimesters of pregnancy and my mind otherwise constantly thinking about all things birth because it’s literally the coolest thing in the world, I can’t help but think what a good option homebirth is right now during a global pandemic.
Pregnant During a Pandemic
Let me start off by saying that how difficult I imagine it must be to be a pregnant woman right now. Whether you are at the beginning or the end of your pregnancy, this is a situation that none of us have faced in any of our lifetimes and that must be incredibly scary when you are already in a position where your immune system is weakened and you’re about to bring a precious life into the world. The birth of a child, especially a first child, is nothing short of an epic event in the lives of parents.
I feel you. All of you. And you have my sincerest wishes that you are able to maintain a healthy pregnancy and have a labor and delivery experience that isn’t just the product of getting the baby here at any or all costs, but an experience that is memorable, meaningful, and exactly as special as it is supposed to be.
Being pregnant means that you are likely to have reason to be in doctor’s offices more than the average person. It means you’ll be in laboratories for bloodwork and imaging offices for ultrasounds. That means you are going to have to take extra precautions. Hand washing, changing clothes upon coming home from being in public, sanitizing anything you regularly come into contact with- steering wheels, your pocketbook, cell phone, etc.. With an immune system that is already working for two, you need to be extra cautious. That also means, at least currently, being the best at avoiding any public gatherings. Current CDC recommendations indicate to avoid public places where 50 or more people are for at least eight weeks.
If you can work remotely, work remotely. If you can skip any appointment at the doctors office that isn’t absolutely necessary, with the approval of your medical providers, skip them. Anything you can do to make sure that you are especially protected from additional exposure.
Giving Birth Alone
Hospitals are having to implement some really crazy policies in order to try to combat the aggressive spread of covid19. And I absolutely get it, hospitals are full of sick people. Hospitals are also full of healthy doctors and nurses and staff that need to stay healthy in order to continue to take care of the sick people that come to their doors.
One such way that hospitals are managing to control the spread of the virus is to limit visitors. I’m part of many different social media groups focusing on birth advocacy or natural birth, and I can’t tell you how many women have posted frantically about receiving revised policies from their chosen hospital that are 1) eliminating birth support, 2) limiting or eliminating support during labor, and/or 3) eliminating postpartum visitors. That may include doulas, parents, spouses, younger siblings, grandparents, birth photographers, postpartum visitors, or anyone else.
Of course, I understand the reasoning for all of this. HOSPITALS ARE BREEDING GROUNDS FOR SICKNESS AND INFECTION. And I don’t think the hospital is necessarily wrong in doing any of these things. It’s just another reason why I choose to “Give Birth on Your Turf.”
There are so many reasons to birth at home when there ISN’T a pandemic. For most low-risk women (I’m not talking about “high” risk being women over 35- I’m talking about actual high risk), homebirth is a perfectly safe option.
With cesarean section rates in the United States triple the suggested rate of 10-15% by the World Health Organization, giving birth in a hospital increases the risk of 1) interventions, 2) maternal mortality, 3) cesarean section rates, 4) postpartum infection, and 5) poor maternal mental health. Of course, I’m not saying those things WILL happen, just that they are more likely to happen. Infant demise rates are slightly higher for homebirth, but I surmise that is largely because homebirth statistics do not differentiate between planned homebirth and unintentional homebirth, the latter of course likely having less successful outcomes.
Hospitals are where people go when they are sick. Pregnancy is not a sickness, but rather the most natural thing in the world that women have been managing since the beginning of time without hospitals. It was only over the last century that birth moved to the hospital.
HomeBirth the Safer Option?
During a global pandemic such as the one facing our planet right now, the idea of giving birth in a hospital could be terrifying to some. The fear of the virus might outweigh the fear of giving birth enough for some women to reconsider their preference for hospital birth absent a pandemic. Right now, covid19 cases number in the low 4 digits. That number is expected to grow exponentially in the coming days and weeks. When the virus is everywhere, that means it will be in nearly every hospital. Heck, infectious disease experts are begging the administration to build more hospitals because they believe the number of hospitals that we have will not be able to house the number of patients.
So, while it might statistically be a low chance of contracting the coronavirus in a hospital today, that can change in just a short period of time. Physicians and scientists are telling us it WILL change in just a short period of time.
Enter- out of hospital birth.
Did you know that 1 in 6 women report being mistreated by care providers during pregnancy? Honestly, I’m a happy birth story kind of person, but I can tell you that more than 1 out of every 6 women I know have told me stories that have been downright shocking regarding things that have taken place during their pregnancies.
During this global pandemic, inquiries about birth center or homebirth have risen exponentially. Some of my favorite podcasters and birth advocates have been talking or writing about their increased demand for information on out of hospital birth. And no- not just the predicted increase in demand 9 months from now!
Most of you know that I had my third baby, Mila, in our home back in July. I wrote about it, posted pictures about it, and just constantly revel in what was such an amazing experience. I wish everyone could have a birthing experience where they feel empowered, trusting, and STRONG. In addition to pointing you to my story, I’d like to share some other of my favorite homebirth resources should you find yourself in the position of considering an out of hospital birth, whether because of covid19 or simply because you think it may be right for you.
Resources for Out of Hospital Birth:
Additional Resources Can be found HERE
Safe Hospital Birth During the Pandemic
If you are due to give birth sometime in the next few months and choosing to birth in a hospital, here’s some tips that might help you steer clear of any unnecessary contact with covid19 or any other disease.
- Confirm infectious disease compliance at the hospital- Ask what the protocols are- are they simply quarantining people that have traveled to target regions, or more broadly anyone that is exhibiting respiratory symptoms? How do they ensure safety of other patients in the hospital at that same time?
- Skip the emergency room entrance– Most hospitals ask pregnant patients to check in at the emergency room. That is definitely not something I would consider doing if I was pregnant. The emergency room is the place that is most likely to have the most sick patients, including potentially patients with covid19 or covid19 exposure. Instead, ask your hospital where the labor and delivery floor is and ask for permission to bypass the emergency room and go straight to L&D triage. Now is not the time to risk exposure, as current protocol says that an exposed mother should be separated from her infant after birth.
- Get Out As Soon As You Can- Different people have different perspectives on staying at the hospital after birth. Some people want to stay and get as much help as possible those first few days, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Others opt to get out of there as soon as possible. Regardless which way you normally would go, during this crazy outbreak, it’s probably best to make sure you and baby are well and get the heck out of the hospital and to your home as soon as possible.
- Limit Visitors– I agree with the hospital here, people. Don’t have visitors in the hospital right after you give birth. You have no idea where they’ve been and who they’ve been exposed to. Yep, that includes your parents. You probably should consider limiting visitors even at your home for some period of time as well- I know that’s hard, particularly if you have other kids, but that is what this situation calls for.