pregnant and preparing for the coronavirus
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Concern about how to prepare for the coronavirus has certainly reached new heights this week. But if you’re pregnant, you probably have some unique worries about how this virus might affect your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Now is a good time to think through your game plan in the event that the coronavirus strikes close to home.
Earlier this week the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the situation continues to evolve rapidly. There are already several cases in the US, and the CDC tells us it’s just a matter of time until the virus impacts us in a significant way. As a pregnant person, your birth plans may be impacted by the virus. While it is scary to consider this possibility, it’s best to know your options now so you can make the best decision for you and your family.
Everyone should have the opportunity to make informed decisions regarding their desired birth plan, but even in ideal circumstances, birth rarely goes as we had hoped. With the increasing number of coronavirus cases, preparation should include understanding infection prevention, learning the contingency plans of your care providers, and creating a backup plan that covers the possibility of “birthing in place” (i.e., staying where you are, usually at home, to give birth).
If COVID-19 spreads in a significant way near you, hospitals and healthcare professionals may be overwhelmed with sick patients. Beyond that, home birth could become a necessity if there is a city lockdown, quarantine, or transportation shutdowns. But whether or not that is necessary, we hope this additional information will help you feel more prepared during this time of uncertainty.
Here’s what you can do now:
Practice preventative measures now to avoid getting sick in the first place.
The CDC recommends the following practices:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
Prepare your home for a possible long stay inside.
Experts suggest stocking at least 30 days’ worth of medicines and home supplies, according to the New York Times. Order lots of bulk food staples, and stock up on enough prenatal vitamins to last you through the whole pregnancy. Additionally, make sure to purchase additional medicines. You need enough to last through your pregnancy and possibly beyond. Stock up on diapers, wipes, infant medicines, backup donor milk or formula, and more. If you have the means, try to get as many of your newborn supplies now, including a baby carrier in case you need to move around with your newborn and want to keep them close.
Check your doctor or midwife’s COVID-19 plans.
Your care provider is certainly beginning to plan for how to care for their pregnant patients should the rate of infection increase in your area.
Find out your hospital/birth center/midwife’s backup plans for COVID-19.
Your hospital or birth center surely has begun to make a plan for a coronavirus outbreak. Find out what that plan is and how it would affect you. If you are already planning a birth at home, find out what protocols your home-birth midwife will be using.
Prepare for the possibility of a “birth in place.”
While 1% of Americans plan for home birth with a midwife, natural disasters and pandemics sometimes lead people who had planned a hospital or birth-center birth to stay where they are and “birth in place.” This happens to some people with extremely fast labors; people dealing with hurricanes, snowstorms, or city lockdowns; or if local hospitals and healthcare providers are overwhelmed with sick patients during an epidemic. (To be clear, we are not advocating unassisted childbirth; we are recommending that you be prepared in case there is no other option.)
- Order a just-in-case birth kit: The CDC recommends “clinicians should make pregnant women who reside in locations subject to…emergencies aware of the availability of emergency birth kits.” These kits have all of the essential equipment necessary should a birth occur outside of a birthing facility. Even if your plan is not to birth at home, you can see sample kits for purchase here. You’ll want items like large absorbent pads, sterile drapes, straws, alcohol prep pads, postpartum briefs, lots of gauze, a bulb syringe, lubricating jelly, sterile gloves, sanitary pads, a baby cap, and more.
- Take a childbirth class: These classes will teach you non-pharmacological pain relief techniques and the stages of labor and early postpartum. If you can’t go to an in-person class because it is not safe to leave your home, take a class online.
- Read about disaster preparedness guide to giving birth from midwife.org.
- Tips: Follow these important tips from medical experts about emergency childbirth without any medical professional nearby.
Consider the possibility of planning a home birth, if you have a low-risk pregnancy.
If you are low-risk and interested, planning for a home birth is another option. Planned home birth is considered to be a safe and viable option, provided you are low-risk and have a skilled midwife to attend your birth. ACOG acknowledges that everyone has the right to make a medically informed decision about having their baby and how to have the best home birth outcomes, which include having a properly certified or educated and licensed midwife, having a backup obstetrician, and having access to nearby hospitals.
You could decide now that you would like to plan a home birth (provided a midwife confirms that you are a good candidate for home birth), working under the assumption that if coronavirus does become a large threat, a planned home birth will make you less reliant on the hospital system. In that case, you’ll want to find a home birth midwife who practices in your area and begin to make plans now for your future home birth.
Consider a temporary location change.
Consider the possibility of relocating to a less populated area if that’s a possibility for you. It could mean a lower risk of contagion and less-crowded hospitals.
Learn what you can about breastfeeding.
ACOG states that “encouraging and establishing breastfeeding as a part of routine care ensures that mothers are able to feed their newborns in the event of a disaster.” It also recommends that if you don’t plan on breastfeeding, you should have ready-made formula available. It is helpful to take a breastfeeding class while pregnant or learn as much about lactation and expressing breast milk as possible ahead of the birth. Know what resources are available to you in case you are having trouble with breastfeeding or expressing milk. Although boober focuses on in-person care, during a pandemic we are prepared to serve our parents via telehealth, video, and phone support.
Breastfeeding is immunity-boosting for babies. It also helps reduce postpartum hemorrhage after birth, which is very important if you are not birthing in a hospital or with medical professionals. If you do not want to breastfeed, consider exclusive pumping, and be sure to have a manual pump and a hospital-grade breast pump. (Buy a pump whether you plan to breastfeed or not, just in case.) It is also really helpful to learn manual milk expression.
If you know you won’t be able to produce breast milk or don’t want to pump or breastfeed, consider procuring donor milk or purchasing ready-made formula ahead of time, as supply chains will likely be disrupted.
Here is the CDC’s guidance for breastfeeding should the birthing parent be diagnosed with coronavirus.
Check in with your pediatrician.
Find out your pediatrician’s contingency plan if the spread of the virus makes it unsafe for you to bring your baby into your pediatrician’s office. Is telemedicine a better option in certain cases? What tools and medicines do they recommend you have at home in case you cannot leave?
The situation is evolving rapidly. For the most up-to-date information and recommendations from the CDC, visit the CDC’s guidance page on pregnancy and the coronavirus here.
A few other resources.
- CDC statement: Coronavirus and pregnancy
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued this practice advisory for how to care for infected pregnant patients and their babies.
Reach out to us.
Pregnant parents, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. Our team is ready to help! In an effort to help more families we are now offering virtual services. To book a virtual birth doula, lactation professional, postpartum care specialist, or mental health therapist visit us here.
The information provided within this blog post is for general informational purposes only. This post is not meant to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical or birth-related and breastfeeding-related conditions. For medical issues, consult your own physician, pediatrician or lactation consultant.