You are pregnant in the Spring of 2020. Life has changed in unprecedented ways. Usually global events wouldn’t, couldn’t, impact you and your pregnancy. This is different. Your mind has been racing about how your birth will change because of this situation. It will change, of that there is no doubt. There has already been changes to the number of birth partners and visitors permitted, duration of visitor stays, alterations to available birth locations. Things are changing rapidly, even as I type. But I am speaking to lots of women who are scared of one thing more than any. In the current climate of Coronavirus, what if my birth partner isn’t allowed in with me?
Focus on what you can control, let go of what you can’t
I can understand you wanting to shove that positive affirmation where the sun doesn’t shine right now but bear with me on this. There is only one thing that you are completely in control of right now. One thing. You. Whether you had plans for multiple birth partners, are concerned about being alone, or now struggle with how to manage childcare, there are ways that you can prepare, there are things you can do, plans that you can make.
1. Produce a birth plan/birth preferences and take it with you
This is nothing new. This is advisable for any circumstances, but now more than ever. Changing policies due to Coronavirus have no bearing on the majority of choices that are available to you as a labouring and birthing woman. Once you are in that space, having your baby, you are still the decision maker. You still give the consent. You still have rights. Your body, your rules. Importantly, your care team (midwives, consultants, obstetricians) want you to have an amazing birth too and no virus changes that. Midwives are your advocates, they have got your back, they will hold your space. If your partner can’t be next to you, you won’t be alone. Your midwife will be there. Giving them a copy of your plan/preferences allows them to understand exactly what you want and reduces the need for too many questions and disturbance.
2. Consider home birth if your NHS trust is still supporting it
Birthing at home removes a number of concerns you may have around increased exposure, being in closer contact with others and leaving your home. It also takes away worries about childcare for older siblings as they, and you, can remain in the household where they are isolating. The UK Birthplace study confirmed that, for second or subsequent babies, there is no difference in outcome when comparing births in a home setting with births in a midwifery led setting and planned births in a consultant led birth suite. For women having their first baby there is just 0.4% increased chance of a negative outcome with a home birth compared to a consultant led birth suite. Birthing at home is safe for most women and, alongside midwife led settings, can substantially reduce the odds of further intervention. Ultimately, you need to opt for a place of birth where you feel most comfortable and safe.
3. Set up video link apps on a phone or tablet and get used to using them
Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp…they will bring whoever you like virtually into the room with you. This could be a second birth partner that you planned to be there but who is now restricted. Importantly this can provide a source of support for your partner as well as you. You will not be able to swap in a second partner so them having someone on the end of the phone/video to chat to will give them some much needed reassurance. In the event that your partner can’t be there at all, you can still see and hear them. They can still see and hear you. Nothing can replace their physical presence but modern technology brings connections that could make all the difference in these difficult times.
4. Make sure you are self isolating with the person you want as your birth partner
Whoever your birth partner is, and not everyone will have their husband/boyfriend/partner as their main birth support, make sure they are living with you in self isolation (working from home if they are still working). This will reduce their exposure and increase the likelihood that they are healthy when the day comes.
5. Identify a family supporter
Find someone, a wider family member or friend, who has been or will self isolate so that they can be healthy and ready to cover childcare or be a birth partner back up if your birth partner isn’t allowed in with you.
6. Pack extras in your birth bag
Be even more organised with items that are going to help you.
Technology. A tablet or other device for video chats to be set up, a bendy tripod or device holder, all the chargers for all the devices, and ear phones or a bluetooth speaker. If the device is not your phone and doesn’t have built in 4G connection make sure you know how to use the personal hotspots on your phone to connect to. If you do make use of video calling make sure you have a data plan that supports it (a pay as you go SIM card is an alternative). Make sure that device has been filled with the music or audio tracks that you need.
Stimulating the senses. Photographs, especially of a partner if there is a possibility they can’t be there. Scent to bring reassurance and comfort, a t-shirt with their aftershave on, a handkerchief with essential oils. Home comforts such as a pillow, blanket or toy.
7. Hypnobirthing techniques all the way
Hypnobirthing reduces fear and anxiety and so using these techniques during pregnancy will massively help you to cope with the uncertainty and the stress that creates. It will also help you to release fear or worry around labour and birth to build your confidence. Practising Hypnobirthing techniques such as visualisation, self hypnosis, breathing techniques and relaxation will ensure they are familiar and instinctive so you don’t need as many prompts from a partner. Identify the audio tracks or songs/playlists that really help keep you calm and encourage you to relax and use them repeatedly to build connections and associations.
8. Get your birth partner to record a relaxation script or affirmations
You can’t beat the reassuring voice of the person you love and trust the most. Don’t just rely on a live phone call or video chat. Record them reading a relaxation script and then you have this to play out loud whenever you need it. Practise this at home during pregnancy too.
9. Food, food and more food.
Snacks and drinks are an essential part of any birth bag, but pack much more now than you were going to. Canteens are only being opened for staff in most hospitals. Some small food outlets are remaining open but this isn’t a practical option for you. Even if your birth partner is there with you, they won’t be able to leave the birth centre/suite for extra refreshments. Fingers crossed the obligatory tea and toast will still be there but for anything else, plan ahead. Energy and rehydration drinks, sweets and chocolate, dried fruit, crackers, individually wrapped brioche rolls/pastries, sealed fruit and jelly pots, cereal and energy bars…
10. Take a social media break
Social media and news bulletins provide informative updates but they also generate anxiety and over-reliance on the next round of statistics. Your baby will come. You will birth. No amount of current news knowledge is going to change that. Be informed, but intermittently, not constantly. You can’t prepare well when your mind is being flooded with new worries. Know when you need to take a step back.
11. Don’t forget to plan for the golden hour and beyond
The changes associated with Coronavirus impact on postnatal care as well as labour and birth. The main impact will be duration of stay for partners after birth and visitor restrictions on postnatal wards. The midwives and postnatal ward staff will provide an amazing level of care to help you feel safe and supported at such a wonderful and scary time, but plan ahead by researching and being informed on what to expect postnatally. Include immediate post birth preferences in your birth plan/preferences (skin to skin, optimal cord clamping, initiating feeding etc) and consider what support you can draw on where ordinarily you would be relying on your partner. Current advise relating to Coronavirus and newborns is that women and babies should remain together and breastfeeding should continue as normal. Postnatally, get those devices on (ask your midwife to help you) and make contact with your close family and partner. Share your amazing moments.
12. You will NEVER birth alone.
Place your hand on your bump. Feel the movements of that person inside you. From the moment you conceived your baby they have been with you. They will be with you right until they come earthside. No matter who else is in the room with you, there is someone you love unconditionally going through it all right alongside you. You’ll dance this dance together.
How I Can Support You
If you would like support in how to prepare for an empowered and positive birth, no matter what is happening in the outside world, I offer a range of antenatal and Hypnobirthing sessions online via video link. These include:
- Full private courses fully tailored to your needs (including access to online resources)
- Group workshops (including access to online resources)
- 90 minute ‘Essentials’ sessions
- Free weekly pregnancy relaxations Live on Facebook
- Personalised birth planning sessions
- A chat any time to answer your questions or alleviate any worries
For information and updates on pregnancy/birth and Coronavirus: