COVID-19 has thrown a curveball into the way things work for labor and delivery in the hospital and is making birth education and support complicated. We want you to know the reality of how hospitals’ Labor & Delivery floors are handling the coronavirus, what our plan is to continue support despite possible restrictions and your options around all these changes. We are all hoping this virus moves through Massachusetts quickly and we can continue on as normal, but in the meantime, here’s what is happening. (See more COVID-19 resources here under COVID-19 and Pregnancy)

Hospital Policies on Support during Labor and Birth – I could write about the current policies of all the Massachusetts hospitals we attend but the reality is that they are changing EVERY day. One day an OB will say a partner and a doula are permitted and the next morning a Midwife is saying the hospital is moving to not allow even 1 support person, meaning NO partners. People should know these policies are fluid and ever-changing while COVID-19 moves through. We do understand hospitals are trying to handle things in the best way they can in uncharted territories but we still urge our clients to advocate for themselves and the support they need on an individual basis.

Our doula community and the families we support have done a wonderful job at helping hospitals understand we are a not visitors, and rather important members of the birth team. We thoroughly appreciated the statement AWHONN posted on their FB page as well as the letter DONA drafted for families to send. That said, for the safety of all involved, the less bodies present in one place the better, so restrictions at this point and as things grow are understandable.

What is our Plan for Support? We have made a plan of action to make labor and birth as beautiful and as smooth as possible for you.

Support at home  Unfortunately, at this time we are no longer able to provide support at home – please see below for our virtual support plan 

Our Labor Advice Before Covid-19 – Ignore, Ignore, Ignore, ignore some more, and then bake a cake. (Mind you, this advice is subject to the number of pregnancies someone has had 🙂 We often go to meet up with clients when they feel it is active labor or completely unmanageable. More often then not, this is in the hospital

Now – We are still encouraging our clients to distract themselves in early labor. A watch pot does not boil. We want to avoid adding any pressure to make things go faster (labor will go as fast or slow as your body and baby need it to). We do, however, want to join families in their homes (rather then the hospital) as soon as things feel intense and consistent. Being there earlier will assure we can support you and your partner in managing labor mentally, emotionally and physically. We want families to get in a good groove BEFORE heading to the hospital. Being with you a bit earlier also better enables us to help you know when a good time to get to the hospital is. The evidence on staying home is endless. Look up research done by Dr. Neel Shah who talks at length about how important getting to the hospital later is – only now, not only are we avoiding a cesarean, we are avoiding a virus.  (Of course, these change in plans are only for families who are not getting an induction or cesarean)  Don’t worry about staying at home too late however. We don’t want you to have a baby in the car either!

Please note we will be taking all necessary precautions before supporting you at your home. Both Becca and I are staying at home with our families and are only venturing out to support families at home (At this time no hospitals are allowing 2 support people). When we arrive at your home we will be wearing gloves for peace of mind for all involved. If either of us feels sick at all we will switch who is on-call and if both of us are sick we can still provide virtual support.

Virtual support in the hospital

Being able to see, hear, watch and speak with you enables us to continue to fully support you. While we may not be able to provide back pressure or feed you water we are still able to share witness and be in the moment to offer assistance when needed. We’ll be able to see your body language – when you’re in a good groove or when you’re looking tense or worried and may need an affirmation, a suggestion on a new position or new focal point. You’ll be able to see our face – sharing with you that we know and trust birth and that this is what normal labor looks like (this is especially helpful for partners who may feel adrift and need that confirmation and calming presence). With earbuds we can listen to your breathing and sounds and if the sensations are running away with you, we can guide you with our own audible breath and sounds – just as if we were in the room with you. We can still help baby to move and labor to progress by  sharing position ideas and help your partner make arrangements within the room (e.g., birth ball here, pillows there, massage there, for maximum comfort). Finally, we can easily provide support if your care provider presents you with choices during your labor and you need information in order to make your decision.

Things you’ll need to maximize on virtual support:
1. The most helpful tool will be wireless ear pods or headphones. Ones you and your partner can share would be best, which is why wireless may work better. These will have to connect to a phone or, better yet, a laptop.
2. An established video chat available.
  • You will need a phone or laptop with a long extension cord. (you will likely be moving the laptop around the room if you have no ear pods)
  • Zoom will likely be the best option for computer video and audio. If you have an apple laptop then FaceTime will also be an option for a laptop or iPhone.
3. You and your partner should practice set up now. You’ll have to be able to set it up whether you are at an induction or in active labor. FaceTime and Zoom are both quite easy to jump into. It will be the audio aspect you’ll want to nail down in a way that won’t restrict movement for either of you.

What are Your Options –  If you find yourself at a hospital where support is limited or even completely denied, know your options.

  • You have the option to switch to a home birth if you are low-risk. Check out our resources for help in finding a home birth midwife. We’ll note also that it may be difficult to find someone who has room, so make some phone calls now to get information if you’re thinking of home birth as a choice for you.

Many, if not all, hospital childbirth education classes have been canceled. The great news is that educators, doulas, and prenatal yoga teachers are all picking up the slack by teaching online courses. Here is a list of some classes we highly recommend if you have found all your up and coming classes have been canceled

Birth Education Online

    • In response to COVID-19 Sherri McBurney, well known for her excellent Childbirth education courses at Newton Wellesley Hospital, has set up online classes. https://www.deepseeddoula.com/covid
    • Wendy Mackey-kydd is providing a virtual birth education classes on Mondays March 23, 30 and April 6 from 6:30-9:30pm. Contact her at wendymackeykydd@gmail.com

Online Prenatal Yoga

    • Brigitte Arle is offering a prenatal yoga class on Tuesday at 5:30pm.  www.rootedboston.com/classes She also kindly offers free meditation and breath work and movement to destress and keep our immunity up on her facebook group.

Virtual Therapy

    • Justine Leach at Resilient Birth Justine works with parents with anxiety about birth or a history of trauma to co-create birth support plans. She helps people find their internal resources and communicate their needs to their partner and healthcare team.

3 Comments

  1. Rebecca Urban on 03/15/2020 at 6:44 pm

    Bethany, thank you for posting this! We need to stay ahead of this and our clients deserve accurate information on their options! Peace, Rebecca

    • Rebecca Urban on 03/15/2020 at 6:45 pm

      Also, Urban Arrivals will be offering complimentary 15 minute phone sessions to anyone who wants information on their options.

      • admin on 03/15/2020 at 9:43 pm

        That is wonderful! Thanks for commenting Rebecca. We so appreciate you!! <3

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