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Adjusting your birth plan during the COVID-19 pandemic

Photo: Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of uncertainty for everyone and mothers-to-be especially may be wondering how their birth plan may be impacted. Though we are living in an unprecedented time, Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and all of our providers are prepared to provide the compassionate care we always have, understanding that you may have some questions about your birth plan in light of the current visitation guidelines we have in place for the safety of our mothers, babies and staff.

You might be wondering how to adjust your birth plan during this time. At the forefront of any birth plan is the health and safety of mom and baby. Part of mom’s health includes an encouraging and supportive atmosphere. Because of the increased risk of COVID-19 exposure, the hospital has updated its visitor guidelines including limiting the number of visitors to one healthy adult per expecting mom. 

This will affect some patients’ previous plans to have a doula or family/friends attend their birth, but doesn’t have to completely exclude those options – it may just involve coming up with creative solutions instead of in-person support. Consider discussions with your doula/friends/family about virtual ways that they can support you. FaceTime, Zoom and phone calls are some of the ways patients can invite others to their birth. Pictures of yourself, partner and baby are allowed during your birthing experience and certainly can be shared with whomever you like. Ask for pictures/signs of encouragement from your loved ones to surround you in the birthing suite.

Most other options in your birth plan can remain unchanged, however, there are some minor tweaks that will decrease infection exposure risk. This includes:

  • Walking in labor is still an option, just only in the patient’s room (not in hallways, etc.); Thankfully, Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women has spacious birthing suites that can accommodate good laps around the room if desired.
  • Nitrous oxide administration for pain control will no longer be an option during the pandemic, but IV medications and epidurals are still available.

Questions to ask your provider might include:

  • What has changed in regard to hospital/clinic operations?
  • What pain relief options will I have?
  • What happens if I get sick?
  • What happens if my baby gets sick?
  • What will the care plan look like if my baby gets sick?
  • Do I need to wear a mask?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help prepare you for the birth of your baby and manage your expectations.

In addition to caring for a mother’s physical health, it’s also important we find ways to support the emotional needs of our patients. Fear of the unknown and lack of control can both magnify anxiety and perception of pain. Reach out to your provider and ask any questions you have about your care/birth experience so that you will know what to expect. It’s normal to have anxiety surrounding the birth of a child even in less stressful times, but learning ways to self-soothe including mindfulness exercises, breathing techniques and awareness of your body’s stress responses can help reduce this anxiety. Talk with your birth partner about ways that they can help you during labor. Are there certain words/phrases/physical touches that help? Talk about what your ideal birth experience looks like and how your partner can help to achieve it. Remaining clear on your ultimate goal (healthy mom/healthy baby) and being flexible on the journey can also make for a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

Tell your partner how they can support you. If you were counting on a doula/sister/friend to also be in the room to provide support, discuss what aspects of their support you were hoping for. Your partner may be able to add that to their repertoire as well. Doulas can provide excellent learning materials for partners to help them to provide the support that they were planning to provide: massage techniques/soothing words/supportive pep talks, etc. Prioritize what will mean the most for you. If you need physical touch, show your partner now what feels good (lower back massage, etc.) but remain flexible knowing that what feels good in labor may change. If you need supportive verbal encouragement, discuss what words and phrases are the most meaningful to you. Let your partner be your communication channel – i.e., if having your mom in the room was really important to you, ask your partner to take pictures/FaceTime those moments you want them to include them in and send them “real-time.”

As you enter this new journey of motherhood, continue to care for yourself and your baby as you had previously – eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly when it’s safe to do so. Reach out to friends and family to stay connected and continue to enjoy the adventure of growing your family. Your Pavilion for Women team is here to care for you and we all are lucky to have the best jobs in the world – welcoming new life into the world and surrounding their families with care.