If you didn't imagine being pregnant and bringing a beautiful new bub into the world during the middle of a global pandemic, you're not alone. The world is a different place right now, but rest assured; you can still have a beautiful birth! It’s okay to be upset about not having the one you dreamed about, but once you enter your birthing space, it’s all about you and your baby. You can forget about the outside world and focus on yourself because soon, your little one will be earth side and safe in your arms. The best way to help alleviate some of those challenging emotions is to be as informed as possible about pregnancy and birth under these restrictions. We've teamed up with the experts at Tiny Hearts Education to help you navigate these trying times by preparing you for what your pregnancy and birth may look like during COVID-19
A noticeable change will be to your antenatal (during pregnancy) appointments and ultrasounds. While you will still have regular catch ups, some of these may be via phone or video call. If you do attend appointments in the hospital, it will be on your own. You'll have to wear a face mask and be screened on entry - usually in the form of a questionnaire and temperature check. At most hospitals, your support person must drop you off and remain in the car (alternatively, you can drive yourself). You can still include support people by having them on speaker or face-time during the appointment!
These restrictions are the same for ultrasounds, depending on the policy of where you are having your ultrasound. Ask your sonographer for some photos of bub, ask to take a video recording of bub moving on the screen or face-time during the scan if able, to include your co-pilot. Ultrasounds are an exciting part of pregnancy, and my heart breaks that this moment has been taken away from you and your partner—especially those mamas who don't receive good news.
If all that change isn't enough, your hospital antenatal birthing classes might have been cancelled too. While this can be tough, Tiny Hearts provide online birthing classes to help educate you. Because you need to be informed, Mama. Knowledge equals power.
Founder of Tiny Hearts, Nikki, prepares for an online class
When you go into the hospital to birth your bub, you and your co-pilot will both undergo COVID-19 screening. Most hospitals have current restrictions on only bringing one support person, but this may vary depending on your hospital policy. While in labour, you won't have to wear a mask, but when walking around the hospital, both you and your support person will. Your birthing team will also be wearing personal protective equipment, like gloves and a mask. It can be intimidating, but it's about minimising the risk, even if you don't have coronavirus.
Now let's talk about actually bringing that precious bub earthside. Your birth, whether through labour or caesarean section, should remain mostly the same, including actively moving during labour and epidurals. During the height of COVID the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RANZCOG) advised health services to discontinue the use of water immersion during labour and birth, as when your birthing team’s protective equipment gets wet, it is no longer effective. However, they recently updated their stance on water immersion and birth during COVID-19 from not being recommended to offer to anyone, to now supporting it for women who are deemed a low risk of COVID-19.
If you have COVID-19, you may still use nitrous oxide (the laughing gas) during labour, depending on your local hospital policies as long as your birthing team have appropriate protective equipment. Mamas who don't have the virus, you can still use nitrous oxide during labour.
When bub is born, you can do skin-to-skin as long as bub is well following birth. It's also a great opportunity for co-pilots to do skin-to-skin once Mama is ready to get up after birth. You'll still get to do all the usual things - cut the cord, breastfeed (or bottle feed for our bottle-feeding mamas), take lots of photos, dress bub and spend time bonding with your new little person. Depending on your hospital's policy, your co-pilot should be able to remain with you and bub for the rest of the day. Take this time to bond as a new little family!
Skin-to-skin contact is a great way to bond with bub
If you had a low-risk birth, you and bub are okay, and you feel confident with feeding, you might be offered a six-hour discharge, meaning you can go home six hours after birth. Alternatively, you and bub will be transferred to the postnatal (after birth) ward. If you have a shared room, your partner may have to leave due to social distancing and hospital policy.
Everyone loves to meet a new baby. In this current climate, restrictions can make that difficult. Some hospitals have the policy that only your birthing partner may visit. Unfortunately, this means that bub's siblings, grandparents, friends and other loved ones have to wait until you take bub home. When your birthing partner does come to visit, some hospitals have a current 2 hour per day limit on visiting time. Yep, it's tough. Yep, it's heartbreaking. But use that time as best you can to make memories, and to share those sweet newborn moments.
Here are some tips to maximising your time with your support person:
- Time the visit so your co-pilot can play a part in those special 'firsts' like the first bath
- Weigh bub while your support person is there
- Take pictures, video recordings and voice recordings of little one and the sweet sounds they make to share with loved ones
- Ask your support person to choose bub's clothes, feed little one (if bottle feeding) and change nappies together to help them feel involved
- Ask your support person to do skin-to-skin with bub. Use this opportunity for you to have a shower, eat, get dressed or nap
- Talk about what bub has been doing. Conversations about how many poos bub has done might seem silly, but it involves your support person
- Focus on bonding. Research tells us that bonding releases important chemicals in bubs brain that help with brain growth and development, and it builds a secure attachment
- Cuddle as a family. You never get this time back, and gosh does it go by so quickly
For mamas who discharge with bubs in the NICU, my heart breaks for you. The reality of this situation is some parents finding themselves walking out of the hospital, while half of their heart remains in the NICU. To those mamas and co-pilots, I am so sorry you're going through this. Before leaving, check what the restrictions are with your NICU. Time your visits so that you are involved in bubs care, and use the tips above to help you bond with your precious little person.
Postnatally, there is no current evidence that suggests breastmilk carries coronavirus. The Department of Health recommends washing your hands before and after touching bub, wearing a face mask, regularly cleaning high-contact surfaces and getting tested if unwell. If you do become ill, you might prefer expressing and having someone else feed bub. If that's the case, make sure you clean your hands before and after pumping and use sterilised pumping equipment.
There's so much more we want to share with you about pregnancy, birth and caring for a bub. Book into a Tiny Hearts Education Bump, Birth and Beyond childbirth class so you can join our tribe and face parenthood without fear. Don't forget, all dreamers get a special discount on Tiny Hearts birthing courses with the code TinyHearts10. Learn more
Written By Jade | Tiny Hearts Education
Jade is a midwife, mum of three and educator with Tiny Hearts Education. Through her work in the maternity suite and Tiny Hearts, she is passionate about educating and empowering women and their families about all things pregnancy, birth and parenting in the early days.