For many people, it is a stressful and scary time to be pregnant and give birth. There are so many questions and, unfortunately, many conflicting answers, depending on who you ask. No matter what your question or the response you get, there are definite ways to increase your satisfaction of your birth experience.
Before I get into these details and the point of this post, I feel it is important to mention a few things. As I am located in the Charlotte area, which has a few birth place options (i.e., hospital, birth center, homebirth), the following information is specific to the Charlotte and surrounding area hospital births.
1. Most hospitals are screening everyone who enters, for COVID-19. This is done by taking your temperature and answering a series of questions.
2. Everyone is tested for COVID-19 with rapid response testing when they enter the Labor and Delivery Department at their local hospital. You do have the right to refuse the test. If you do, they will treat you as if you are positive for COVID-19.
3. Most results are negative. According to recent studies about 10% of patients do have a positive test result. Of these 10%, not all of them are showing or feeling any symptoms of COVID-19. This is one reason why this virus can spread so easily. People can be carriers of the virus for weeks without ever getting sick or having very mild symptoms, such as JUST a cough.
4. If your test results are negative, you and your birth partner are able to avoid wearing a mask during your labor and delivery. If you are at a hospital that allows doulas at this time, such as at a Novant Health Hospital, your doula will be allowed into your labor and delivery room.
5. If your test results are positive, you will have to wear a mask and your birth partner will have to wear a mask. If you are giving birth at a hospital that allows doulas at this time, again such as a Novant hospital, they will not be permitted into the labor and delivery room with you and your support will have to be virtual.
6. There is evidence that there is a higher C-section rate for those who have tested positive for COVID-19. There is no evidence that this increase in C-sections is due to complications with COVID. It is possible, this increase is due to a bodily temperature of 100+ degrees, which is a common symptom of COVID, but can be an indication of an infection of the membrane, also called Chorioamnionitis.
6. There is a small chance, if tested positive, your doctor or hospital might request separation from your baby for two weeks. There is not enough supporting evidence for this practice. In contrast, there are many studies and reports that share the importance of skin-to-skin bonding, chestfeeding, and being in close contact with baby/parents during the postpartum time. You have rights as a parent and as a human to reject being separated from your baby for any reason, including COVID-19.
Download this sample letter created by Evidence Based Birth to refuse consent for separation from your baby after birth.
So now that I laid all of that information out for you, the easiest way to avoid having to deal with a positive test result during your labor and birth, is by avoiding getting COVID-19 in the first place!
Masks – It’s not as easy as just wearing a mask. Wearing a mask does give you a little protection but it is mostly protecting the people you are around, the people you are talking to or near. This is because the COVID virus is carried through the air in droplets of saliva. Droplets can be invisible to the human eye. Masks catch those droplets coming out of the person wearing the mask. Therefore, it is very important that you avoid areas where there are a lot of people not wearing masks. If you are in a store or another public place where there is just one or two random people without masks on, avoid walking near them and if you have to interact with them, stay 6+ feet away from them.
Wash your hands when you come home or when you touch anything that was recently touched by “dirty” hands such as your mail, delivered packages, take-out food containers, etc. Keep antibacterial gel in your car so you can use it after being in a public area. Once you are home, remember to still wash your hands with soap and water. This soap does not have to be antibacterial.
Minimize your time out in public. Only go to the store if necessary. Keep social get together minimal and practice social distancing, hand washing, and masks, as mentioned earlier. Just because you are hanging out with a friend or family member doesn’t mean they should be considered safe or uninfected.
If you work part-time or full-time outside your home, all of these safety measures are still very important. Stay away from people not wearing masks, wash your hands a lot, be aware of objects that are commonly handled a lot by other people. When you get home from work, change your clothing and shower as soon as you enter the home. This might seem like a pain, but in could possibly keep a positive COVID test out of your birth experience.
Minimize your doctor visits. This is something most OB/GYN offices are already doing. Instead of seeing you every month, they might space your appointments out to every 6-8 weeks. If they are not practicing this type of social minimizing, you can inquire and talk to them about doing this.
Support a healthy immune system. Make sure your Prenatal Multi-vitamin is of high quality. Many brands you can buy at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, etc. are very low quality with added fillers, colors, and flavors. Quality does matter. In addition to taking a good quality multi, you should also be taking a prenatal Omega 3 supplement, such as Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA. Vitamin D and vitamin C have also been shown to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on individuals and they are both safe to take during pregnancy. Please reach out to me for more specifics on supplements while pregnant.
Foods to support a healthy immune system are also important. Eat fermented foods, such as yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, etc. If you don’t like fermented foods, you can add a probiotic supplement to your regiment. Eat little to no processed foods, sugars, and foods to which you have a known sensitivity, make you feel bloated, give you gas, make you constipated, give you headaches, etc. Increase your vegetable intake. Eat the rainbow of colors!
Spend your extra time at home relaxing, getting to know the growing baby inside you, taking a birth education class, reading, and feeling the connection you have with Mother Earth and Nature, as a giver of life.
Doing everything I listed does not guarantee that your COVID test will be negative at the time of labor, but it definitely increases the chances of it being negative. With a negative test you can be mask-free with your birth partner and possibly your doula by your side for an unforgettable and beautiful birth experience.
As you prepare for your birth and bringing baby home, make sure you also prepare for your postpartum healing time. There are many ways to still make sure you have support during your Fourth Trimester, even during this time of change. My next blog post will be focusing on the Fourth Trimester During COVID-19.
As always, if you have any questions about the information in this blog post or need support in finding the right birth place and care provider for your birth preferences, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Alfieri, N., Manodoro, S., & Marconi, A. M. (2020). COVID-19 does not stop obstetrics: What we need to change to go on safely birthing. The experience of a University Obstetrics and Gynecology Department in Milan. Journal of Perinatal Medicine, 1(ahead-of-print). https://doi.org/10.1515/jpm-2020-0218
Coronavirus COVID-19 | Evidence Based Birth® Resource Page. (n.d.). Evidence Based Birth®. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://evidencebasedbirth.com/covid19/
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
Prabhu, M., Cagino, K., Matthews, K. C., Friedlander, R. L., Glynn, S. M., Kubiak, J. M., Yang, Y. J., Zhao, Z., Baergen, R. N., DiPace, J. I., Razavi, A. S., Skupski, D. W., Snyder, J. R., Singh, H. K., Kalish, R. B., Oxford, C. M., & Riley, L. E. (2020). Pregnancy and postpartum outcomes in a universally tested population for SARS-CoV-2 in New York City: A prospective cohort study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.16403