Whether you are pregnant with your first baby or third, this can feel like an uncertain and freakin’ overwhelming time to give birth. Whatever your dream birth story was when you became pregnant, you’ve no doubt had to modify some of those expectations. I’m so sorry. It’s easy to understand why you might be on the verge of freaking out right now. There’s absolutely no way that we could have imagined this is the way it would play out, but here we are.

So what the hell do we do next? How can you still have an empowered birth experience?

Let’s start with a dose of good news from the WHO and CDC: pregnant women are no more likely get COVID-19 than anyone else, which is astounding, since pregnancy usually makes you immunocompromised. Also, it does not appear that the virus can pass into the placenta or breast milk.

While COVID-19 is still a very new virus, there are two really important facts about it. One, it is highly contagious. Two, it can be asymptomatic for a number of days which means you can carry the virus without even realising you are sick. This is why it has spread worldwide. This is why they are saying to proceed with the idea that you actually already have COVID-19. Also, babies and children seem to have fewer and milder symptoms of the virus, which is great, but they can still pass it to others.

For these reasons, hospitals and birth centers have been limiting the number of support people allowed in the birth room. As of March 25 in Toronto, hospitals are allowing only one support person in the birth room, and no visitors. I know this is very alarming for those who want their doula and partner with them, but the goal is to keep the room free of potentially spreading the virus to you and your baby. It’s a precaution since anyone in the room could have it without knowing. Being aware of your hospital’s policies is the first line of keeping yourself empowered. You can find this info on their website or by asking your health care provider. I will be updating this blog with a list of questions you can bring to your care provider. 

You are going to need to take an online prenatal birth class. Since hospitals are cracking down on visitors (and it is not safe to gather in groups right now anyway), many private care centers and doulas like myself are offering online or virtual classes. Virtual health care is becoming a thing, and who knows when things will return to what we knew before? So get signed up ASAP as there is some invaluable info and resources we want to share with you.

Hire a doula if you haven’t already. A doula can still guide you through every aspect of birth even if they are not allowed in the birth room with you. A doula is your best birth friend and will teach you all their little tricks and secrets to feel supported while you are in labour. I role play with my clients when I teach them how to advocate for themselves, and will demonstrate how to use proper language with your health care team in the birth room. We are there for you when things feel too hard or tired during labour, or if you are wondering what came out of your vagina at 2:30 in the morning before labour has even started. (Probably your mucous plug.) We are also there to support your partners and show them how they can be the best birth coach for you. As I mentioned above, virtual healthcare is becoming the new normal for now, and so is social distancing doula care. I’ve been offering virtual doula care for a few years now, even before COVID-19. This is how I’ve supported families across Canada. Doulas are for you and your partner, so you both feel informed, empowered and capable. Even having phone support during labour from an experienced doula can make all the difference to your birth.

Have you considered having a home birth? The evidence shows that with a low risk pregnancy, you can safely give birth in your home with midwives and your doula. A home birth obviously reduces the risk of getting COVID-19 because you don’t leave the security of your house. And we are being told not to leave our houses anyway! You are a great candidate for a home birth if you’ve always wanted to experience childbirth as naturally as possible. Reach out to find a midwife, as they are in demand at this time. Some of the benefits of having midwife include:

* Reduced rates of labour induction and augmentation

* Reduced use of regional anesthesia

* Decreased infant mortality rates

* Decreased risk of preterm birth

* Decreased third and fourth-degree perineal tears

* Increased chances of having a positive start to breastfeeding

If you already have a hospital birth planned because you prefer medical options and deep down feel like a hospital is the safest place to have a baby, or if your pregnancy is classified as high risk, then you probably are not the right the person to have a home birth. (And that’s okay!!) This decision cannot come from a place of fear or made lightly.  I will update this blog with a link to important questions for a midwife.

It’s important that you stay up to date with all things about COVID-19 and pregnancy. Evidence Based Birth is a website for all birthing people and their families. It is an unbiased source, and the founder, Rebecca Dekker has created this informative, reputable website with access to journals and current research. She has been updating her website daily to keep everyone informed about COVID-19 and all pregnancy topics.

Since there is so much you cannot control right now, the very best thing you can do for yourself right now is consider the things you can control. Every day, meet yourself with compassion and love. It’s okay to feel all the feelings. We’re fragile sensitive humans and this is a fearful unpredictable time. Get all those feelings out on paper because journaling has so many benefits! Pay close attention to what triggers anxious feelings. Maybe you need to disconnect from the radio and news and listen to music or mindfulness podcasts instead. Move your body and shake out any stuck feelings you may have.  Ask people to NOT talk about COVID-19 when you connect with them. Boundaries are healthy. It’s okay to want to protect your space, your baby and your pregnancy.  This is still such a special and beautiful time in your life!

Spend time connecting with your baby every day. Sit in a comfortable position, with one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Take a deep breath in, and send loving thoughts to your baby when you exhale. “We’ve got this. I love you.” Sing or hum to your baby. Read out loud to your baby. They love the sound of your voice! 

 My first ever blog post talked about the most important thing to bring to your birth. You can’t pack it, because it is your own resiliency and inner strength. Now more than ever this is what you will rely on. As well as the team of nurses and doctors and other health care professionals who have your safety and best interest in mind.

Remember in this time that we can only do so much each day. We can’t do it all. And that’s an important lesson you will use in parenting. Hospitals truly want to keep you safe and that is their number one priority.  You have already been gifted with maternal instinct to keep your baby safe. When you tap into that instinct and the love you have for your baby instead of tapping into fear, you’ll know you are making the best decisions for your family. Your baby is so loved.

Above all things you can do right now, stay home, drink water, and wash your hands often.

And please know,