It’s World Doula week and worldwide Doulas are being banned from hospital labour and delivery wards. In some places partners are not allowed in either. Covid-19 is ravaging the planet, and babies are coming into this madness whether we like it or not. Prenatal education is designed to prepare people for the unknowns of childbirth and to help alleviate common fears. In this current situation, our common fear is the unknown of Covid-19.
I’m getting my information about the effects of this virus on pregnancy and newborns from Evidence Based Birth. Rebecca Dekker and her team are posting the latest information about Covid-19 as it arrives, and it is arriving daily. What we do know is reassuring – Covid-19 has not been found to cross the placenta and it is not present in breast milk or amniotic fluid. It is too soon to tell if Covid-19 causes birth defects or is responsible for miscarriages. The World Health Organization is not recommending routine separation of Covid-19 infected mothers’ and their newborns, as antibodies against Covid-19 are present in breast milk and it is vital that the baby receives them.
Pregnant women do not seem to be at higher risk than others to contract Covid-19 and the recommendations to avoid it are the same – wash your hands and all surfaces that you and others may have frequent contact with (door handles, light switches, stair banisters, door bells) and stay at home as much as possible. Many women are choosing to reach out to midwives and home birth physicians and changing their birth plan so that they can avoid hospitals, and this is a great option for many people. But if you can’t avoid the hospital, how can you prepare for a birth experience unlike any you have previously imagined?
Step 1) Sign up for Zoom or Skype. If you can’t have your birth team physically with you in the hospital, you can at least have them virtually. Make sure your laptop or tablet is ready to go and the charger is in your hospital bag. Zoom lets you have up to 100 people! This is perhaps too many. You do not have to have your video on, and you can mute them.
Step 2) Prepare the most awesome music play list imaginable. Shakespeare said “if music be the food of love, play on.” Oxytocin is the hormone of love, and it’s also the hormone that drives your labour. Unfortunely it’s inhibited by stress. When labouring people feel unsafe, the wrong hormones are produced and they put the brakes on oxytocin production. Keep that oxytocin flowing by keeping your eyes closed and your tunes playing.
Step 3) Practice daily self hypnosis. Listening to guided relaxations or visualizations can help pregnant people learn how to relax, and once you’ve mastered the art of deep relaxation at home, it can be easier to get into a deep state of relaxation in the hospital. If your birthing suite has a bath tub available, play your relaxation mp3 and relax in the tub at the same time.
Step 4) Pump up your yoga balls. Many hospitals provide yoga balls for their birthing clients, but maybe you want to bring yours from home. Get a round one for bouncing on and a peanut ball for helping you labour in bed. Make sure you get the right size, you can find some guidance here. Peanut balls help your baby progress if you are confined to bed and cannot get into productive, upright birthing positions.
Step 5) Befriend and love your nurse. She continues to show up for work in a world gone mad. She is a superhero, and she has your back. Describe to her what you had hoped for your birth so that you can say goodbye to it and move forward. If you cannot see her face properly through her PPE, imagine that she is your best friend, your mother or your doula.
Step 5) Be unafraid. Generations of women have birthed their babies without their partner present. You can do this. You are a strong, resilient woman. You can walk into the fire alone and come out the Mother of Dragons. Yours will be the birth story told for years to come. You will survive this and grow stronger. You are surrounded by the love and support of all the generations who came before you. Close your eyes and let them guide you through.