By Dr. Valerie A. Jones
This is not what you planned.
Not what you dreamed your pregnancy would be like. A time of living in fear and concern for your baby and how your delivery would be. A few rare hospitals have not allowed fathers of the babies or support people for the delivery. Certainly, in most areas you may be limited to only one person in the delivery room. This precaution is taken not only to protect vital health care workers, but also you and your baby. Every day seems to bring about more information about this virus and guidelines are evolving at furious speeds, to only be revised over and over.
Around the country, we are experiencing this pandemic in vastly different ways. New York is overwhelmed. Some rural areas don’t understand what all the fuss is about as it has thankfully not hit their town yet (and I pray it never does). However, there is a risk that is undeniable right now to our country by COVID-19.
There are things you can do as a pregnant mother to protect yourself. Please do your part and avoid gatherings for baby showers and stay home. Protect your new baby once they are born and make introductions over social media and zoom.
While you are concerned about being infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) by going to a hospital, doctors are worried about getting the virus from patients. Front line obstetricians fear they are being exposed by their patients. Women forcibly exhale while pushing during delivery. This event can last for hours, often with nurses and doctors in immediate vicinity. During a delivery, your nurse is right next to you, supporting your legs, tending to your needs. Your physician is just feet away from your face, ready to deliver your baby and making sure everyone is safe.
Despite the concerns your doctors and nurses have, they keep showing up. They will be there for you.
You will not deliver alone.
Your healthcare team realizes the challenges (both physical and mental) this time brings and will make your delivery as safe as possible. You will see additional protective gear and cleaning throughout the hospital. Your team will also celebrate with you when your baby is born and support you. If you are starting to wonder about a home birth out of an effort to avoid a hospital, I ask you to please reconsider. As a physician who has been out of clinical practice for a few years, I have no ties with a hospital, employer, or practice. I have no personal incentive to discourage a home birth other than a desire to have the greatest chance for a healthy and safe delivery for you and your baby.
There are fantastic midwives around the country, and I have nothing against licensed midwives and support personnel such as doulas. However, I do worry about women who deliver at home, especially high-risk pregnancies. The fact of the matter is that a delivery can turn into an emergency at any time for any woman, no matter how low risk she was before. Reduce these risks unrelated to the coronavirus by delivering in a hospital.
Your pregnancy may feel overwhelming at times, but there are some silver linings to this unprecedented moment in history. Despite this not going how you planned, you are having one of the most vivid, hands on, demonstrations of how good keeps occurring despite the craziness of the current world. The birth of a baby is a reminder of what is really important in life- the people and relationships in our lives and our health. Keep focused on that and the love that will surround you during this time, even if it can’t be in person with the larger circle you hold closest to your heart. Your healthcare team will be there for you. This may be an understandably anxious time for you, but don’t let COVID-19 steal the joy of your pregnancy and delivery.
Thank you to the health care team that is on the front line.