I don't think any of us were prepared for how COVID-19 would change our lives. The deep impact of the pandemic has been felt across the globe. On top of the loss of life and health repercussions for individuals and their families, there's the…
- Strain on healthcare and essential services
- Social distancing
- COVID protocols
I never imagined I'd be pregnant and giving birth during a global pandemic. There's already so much we navigate when it comes to pregnancy and delivery.
- Frequent doctor appointments
- Management of complications
- Disparities in access and quality of healthcare
- Caring for your own physical and mental health throughout pregnancy
- Birthing classes
- Selecting a hospital
- Writing a birth plan
- Preparing for labor and delivery
- Coordinating care for your current children
- Unpaid or paid parental leave
- Health insurance or lack of
- Postpartum care for yourself and your new baby
There are so many decisions and planning that you have to address before you even have the baby. Then you have to figure out how to raise them! No matter how much you prepare, there's still some level of uncertainty even when it's not your first child. Adding a global pandemic to that long list often complicates or exacerbates each of those items.
I’ve given birth before COVID was ever a word in our collective mind, and I’ve given birth in the middle of COVID. The latter was definitely a different experience.
There were parts of pregnancy and childbirth that didn't change despite the pandemic.
I still experienced joy when I felt my baby kick for the first time.
Strangers still spoke to me about the fact that I was pregnant. Surprisingly, random people still tried to touch my pregnant belly.
My husband still slept in our hospital room like he was the one who just labored and pushed a baby out of his body. Is this a universal experience of women with male partners during labor and delivery? Like, sir how are you sleeping right now, when I just did all the work. OR how is our crying baby not waking you up right now?
I remember during the first night in the hospital, I was breastfeeding my son and I needed my husband to grab some more diapers. He wasn’t waking up, so I grabbed the leftover ketchup packets on my tray and started throwing them at him until he woke up. I may not have said the nicest things when the condiment launch assault finally woke him up.
I’ll be honest, some of the changes that resulted from COVID were difficult for me to deal with. Pregnancy and childbirth is a time you feel vulnerable and are already dealing with so much change. When a pandemic creates upheaval and safety concerns, it can feel overwhelming and exhausting. I think talking about those changes can be helpful for other moms, to try to lessen a little of the unknown, so let's dive in. (I’ve also listed additional resources regarding pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding during COVID-19 at the end of the post)
COVID Related Changes During Pregnancy and Childbirth
Perinatal Emotional Support
Doctor’s Appointments Accompaniment - My husband wasn’t allowed to come to my doctor’s appointments with me during pregnancy, except for one sonogram appointment. This was emotional for both of us for a few reasons. First, with our other child, he had come to the majority of my OB/GYN appointments with me. This helped him feel involved in the pregnancy and provided me with support. Secondly, I had a high-risk pregnancy this time around, so each appointment was like going in to receive an update on if I and the baby were going to survive.
Labor and Delivery Support - I was only allowed one support person at the hospital during labor and delivery. Leading up to my due date, my best friend and I semi joked that she should switch places with my husband, so she could be with me at the hospital. I really missed her being there to support me and help me stay calm. However, she found a way to support me despite not being allowed to be present. She put together a digital folder of encouraging and funny videos for me to watch while I was in labor at the hospital. These helped when I needed something to distract me or wanted to not feel so isolated.
Hospital Visitors - No visitors were permitted at the hospital after delivery. My friends and family were all nervous about me giving birth, because of the complications I experienced while giving birth to my first child. So when we had to stay at the hospital longer this time due to complications for myself and my son, it was especially upsetting for me, my parents, and my best friend that we didn’t get to see each other after my son was born. You want to be able to be with your people after you have been through a big life event or something traumatic. Childbirth for various reasons was both of those things for me, and I missed my people. I was grateful for the ability to video call my parents and toddler, while in the hospital. It helped me feel connected to them, and my son was excited to show me his new “brother of the baby shark” shirt he wore for the occasion.
Home Visitors - With the COVID surge going on when I delivered, my partner and I decided to limit visitors once we got home from the hospital. It was quite some time before the majority of our friends and family got to meet our new baby. I felt isolated those first few months of postpartum. It also hurt because my son was growing so fast, and part of my support system was missing it. We shared a lot of video calls, but they are a substitute for being able to physically be with those you love and introduce them to one of the newest loves of your life.
Tours - The hospital stopped hosting labor and delivery floor tours for expectant parents due to COVID, and I was delivering at a different hospital with my second child. During my first pregnancy, doing the hospital tour ahead of time helped ease some of my anxiety. I knew what the rooms looked, smelled, and felt like, and that removed some of the uncertainty. Due to COVID, we could only watch an orientation video online. While it was better than nothing, it wasn't the same.
Room and Floor Changes - We stayed in the delivery room for the duration of our stay. The hospital typically had a separate set of rooms and a medical team specifically for after-delivery care. Due to the COVID surge at the time, the hospital had to repurpose that floor for other patients. I didn’t mind not having to change rooms, but the medical team I had was used to caring for moms in labor and delivery and then sending the mom and baby onto the other floor within an hour or so after birth. They were in the middle of trying to establish new procedures for
caring for patients on their floor for longer periods of time instead of transferring them, which made for some hiccups in care.
Supply Chain Issues - Due to delays in the supply chain, the hospital was out or running low on a lot of items. My poor nurse had to work hard to track down additional pairs of those sexy disposable diapers and the pads that are so big that you could probably run them up a flagpole.
They had already run out of ice pads, baby nail files, baby mittens, and apple juice. I know apple juice may sound trivial, but for some reason having hospital apple juice after you’ve delivered a baby is a spiritual experience.
Despite the changes, fear, and sadness surrounding COVID over the past two years, I did find some small positives to help myself get through everything.
Positives in the Midst of COVID
Bonding time with my baby and partner. While I felt sad and somewhat isolated in the hospital, I was thankful to have so much time with just my partner and new baby. I didn’t mind there not being a revolving door of visitors that I felt the need to be “on” for while at the same time worrying if my boob was hanging out of my nursing gown when they walked in.
Our own space. Due to COVID, there were no shared rooms or spaces. I will say while you're still disheveled and bleeding after delivery and trying to figure out breastfeeding and how you are going to poop again, it’s nice to not have to navigate a new unknown roommate at the same time.
Quiet hall. Since none of the patients could have visitors apart from their one support person, it made for a relatively quiet floor. There weren’t a lot of people walking around the halls or getting on and off the elevator. It was pretty peaceful and quiet, which helped when I was able to get some rest.
Extra precautions. I was nervous about going to the hospital because I didn’t want to get exposed and sick while I was there. However, the hospital and medical team had great safety measures in place, so honestly, once I got there I wasn’t as afraid. The fact that I was laboring to birth a child, also took my mind off of it a bit. The safety procedures also help me feel at ease about my tiny newborn being there as well.
This has been my own experience and is by no means universal. Pregnancy and birthing experiences change depending on one’s location, health, access to healthcare, local and national policies, etc. You and I both know that changes due to the pandemic seem to come pretty regularly, so there is no guarantee that things will be the same tomorrow, in a week or a year from now. Maybe the only certainty is that the pandemic will continue to impact us, our families, and our communities.
As mothers, this pandemic has changed so much of our lives, pregnancy and childbirth included. You've had to figure out what life in a pandemic looks like for yourself and your family. If you're feeling worn out and exhausted, you aren't alone. Constant stress, safety concerns, and life change take a toll on us. Although I don’t have an answer to solve it, know that you aren’t weak or less than if you’re feeling overwhelmed and at your wit’s end. We’re dealing with stress on every level and it’s a lot to continually have to navigate. We just take it one day at a time, try to take care of ourselves the best we can, and show up for our loved ones.
The staff here at Ellie and Becca believe in your strength and resilience during adversity, as well as the importance of creating a better world for all of our children. We use sustainable methods because we believe in the empowerment of workers and taking care of our Earth, and we create breastfeeding clothes because we believe that mothers should have the opportunity to feel beautiful and confident while nursing their children. We believe in you mama, and we see your strength.
Resources Related to Pregnancy, Childbirth, Breastfeeding, and COVID-19
- John Hopkins Medicine: Coronavirus and Pregnancy: What You Should Know
- Mayo Clinic: Pregnancy and COVID-19: What are the risks?
- Center for Disease Control: Pregnant and Recently Pregnant People at Increased Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19
- Center for Disease Control: Breastfeeding and Caring for Newborns if You Have COVID-19
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Breastfeeding During the COVID-19 Pandemic