• Dawn Herring

What are the COVID hospital restrictions for birth in your area?

Mamas…hospital COVID restrictions in L&D are changing in our area and they can seriously impact your experience of birth. Knowing ahead of time what you may experience, what your options are and what feels right to YOU can help to reduce anxiety and fear when you’re getting ready to walk through that door to have your baby.

Let's talk about "policies"

The policies that are in place, and I am using that term loosely, are changing rapidly. They may be derived by CDC guidelines or recommendations, ACOG standards or other, and they may be a combination of those recommendations as well as what hospital policy makers are deciding.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen firsthand that many of the policies in place go against the basic human rights of the birthing person and the newborn baby (such as a policy to immediately separate Mom and Baby after birth if Mom has COVID or is PUI). Many of these policies are not in alignment with other organizations recommendations such as The WHO and RCOG or RANZCOG (UK and New Zealand/Australia) whose recommendations tend to take a more wholistic view of things and honor the Mom/Baby relationship and dynamic.

Here are some things you can do ahead of time:

  • Ask your team (OB’s and or midwives) what their understanding of the COVID policies are

  • Call L&D at the hospital you’re delivering at and ask someone there too

  • Document what date you call and who you spoke with

  • Consider calling whenever you read this post, 2 weeks out from your due date and again at a week out from your due date - again, things are changing rapidly

Here are some questions to ask about the “policies”

  • What is the current policy on visitors/support? (i.e. is a second support person permitted?)

  • Whether they’ve implemented universal testing

  • Whether they're permitting partner/support person in triage or not

  • If not, where does partner wait?

  • When is partner/support person permitted?

  • What kind of test are they using? i.e. a nasal swab or sinus?

  • How long will you have to wait for the test to come back?

  • What happens if you refuse a test?

  • What a negative test means for wearing masks 

  • Partner support requirements - i.e. stay in room, can’t leave hospital grounds, mask wearing

  • What a positive test means - i.e. no partner support, separation of Mom and Baby, masks, other

  • What about if/when you refuse separation of Mom/Baby?

  • Ask your hospital where their policies are documented and for a copy

  • Also, consider asking who is making the policies

So, what are your options?

I want you to know that these policies aren't law, therefore, they can't "make" you do anything. Now, I say that knowing full well, that even though they’re not law - it can feel hard and scary to stand up against policy and advocate or affirm your rights in a system that is largely gripped by fear of what could go wrong (in general) and right now especially, in the midst of this pandemic.

This is a really hard time for everyone. Nurses are doing their best with what they’re being told; sometimes last minute, expected to uphold policies that they may not even be in agreement with. Care providers are also finding out last minute and not having a “say” in how these policies are derived, and are now having to support their patients inside the guidelines that they may know many of their patients won’t agree with or that they don’t agree with. They are also on the front lines with the possibility of exposure daily depending on what the cases look like. It's a lot and I have empathy and compassion for it.

Having said all that, this is your birth experience, and you still have a right to make the choices that feel right for you.

Here are some possible options to consider:

  • Consider switching to a home birth or birth center birth. If what you learn about your hospital's policies doesn't sit right with you and makes you more anxious, you can check other options. I know this is not a decision to be taken lightly, both from a financial perspective often times, and also from a mindset perspective. However, research shows that out of hospital births are safe and have better outcomes for low-risk mothers and birthing people, and, some research is pointing to better outcomes for more at-risk populations as well. And don't let finances get in the way. If this is something that you've thought about before, I highly recommend exploring your options.

  • If that's just not an option, then it's a must that you know all of the answers to the above questions and that you do what you can to prepare for the different scenarios.

  • I'd highly recommend hiring a virtual doula to support you leading up to and during your labor. Virtual doulas provide the same kind of emotional support as we would in person, provide information and help to support your ability to self-advocate for yourself. We work with partners to encourage their comfort in supporting you and we are at the ready virtually for questions, dialogue, helping you to navigate any choices you need to make with power, just like if we were with you. It's SO crucial during this time. Contact me to set up a time to learn more.

  • You have a right to informed refusal of separation from baby. Visit here for a sample form you can use.

  • You can refuse to wear a mask while laboring.

I want you to know with all my heart, how important it is for you to know and understand your options for birth - especially in the midst of a pandemic. Your birth goals and preferences matter, as do your rights to be treated humanely and with respect during your birth experience. How you meet your baby is part of the foundation for your family.

You can stand up for yourself.

You can better understand the policies, the options, and what feels right to you.

You can step into your Mama intuition and power and navigate this time with confidence and grace, if you educate and inform yourself.

You can trust yourself.

If ever there was a time where we were being asked to dig deeper, to harness and take back our power, and to learn to trust ourselves, this is it. I believe in your ability to do this. And I love to provide and hold space for this exact kind of growth and transformation. Please reach out to me to learn more about how I do that as a doula and birth coach. You deserve to have an empowered birth and beginning to your sweet family.

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