Giving Birth During A Pandemic
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: trying to navigate maternity care and planning your birth during a pandemic is not easy. Maternity staff shortages and covid protocols are adding extra stress for parents-to-be. There is good news though: with a bit of extra planning and preparation, you can feel much calmer and more in control of your birth experience.
One of the best birth (and life) affirmations I use is: ‘I focus on what I can control, and let go of what I can’t’. Write this down in big ol’ letters and stick it somewhere you look at frequently. It’s a good idea to write down all the things you can’t control about your birth. And then write down all the things you CAN control about your birth. Channel your energy into that last one! Here’s some help getting that list started….
Managing your expectations
It’s really important to set your expectations and understand how your birth choices could be impacted. Asking your midwife some questions can be a good start. A few examples:
- If you’re birthing outside the home at a hospital or a birth centre, how long can your birth partner stay with you after birth? How many birth partners can you have with you? This may affect whether you can have a doula, or friend or mum alongside your birth partner.
- If you’re birthing at a midwife-led unit (birth centre), have they had to close in the past year? How often does this happen?
- If you want to birth at home and want midwives in attendance, check whether your local homebirth team is operational. How many times have they had to withdraw the service over recent months?
Answers to these questions will vary depending on where you live and your local hospital trust. Don’t forget that transferring your care to a different hospital trust may be an option if you have another option not too far away.
Plan Your Support During Birth
Attending antenatal or postnatal appointments alone can feel really lonely and worrying. If you are at an appointment alone, you can have your partner or birth support on FaceTime or on speaker. This can be really useful so that they can also ask questions or hear what is said. It takes the pressure off you at a really stressful time! Also remember that you can take a notebook and note down what is said. And, unless it’s a medical emergency, you have time to go away and make a decision about anything that is being recommended.
If you’re birthing outside the home and are only allowed one birth partner, many doulas and birthkeepers offer virtual support. They can be with you and your partner during birth on video or phone.
You may want to check your mobile data package if you’re planning on any long video calls!
Learn and Practice Relaxation
Relaxation is a skill. Yep, I know we don’t often think of it that way, but it is! The more you repeat your relaxation practice, the easier it will be to achieve a relaxed state during birth, or during antenatal appointments.
We know that being relaxed aids the birth process because it helps get the lovely birthing hormones flowing. Practising relaxation is also so beneficial to you and baby during pregnancy too – especially when there’s the added stress of a pandemic!
Hypnobirthing teaches effective relaxation techniques and provides tools and tips to achieve calmness!
Your Birth Bag
Have a think about what additional things you might want to add to your birth/hospital bag that will help you feel more relaxed. This will be all the more important if you did have to spend any time in hospital without your birth partner.
So think comfort: eye mask, ear plugs, a comfy blanket and your own pillow. It’s really useful to think about how you can engage your senses: nice essential oil rollerball or spray (I recommend Autumn Blossoms for a bespoke hypnobirthing blend), some relaxation scripts or soothing music, a podcast or something funny or easygoing to watch. Not forgetting a stash of tasty snacks!
Feel More Prepared
We may not be able to control the path our birth takes, but we can influence it. Understanding what you and your birth partner can do to influence your birth will help you feel more confident and in control.
A good birth preparation course such as hypnobirthing not only teaches you what to expect during birth; it also teaches skills for feeling calm and relaxed, even if birth doesn’t go to plan.
Plus, a great hypnobirthing teacher will be there to build your confidence and support you should anything come up in your pregnancy.