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Pregnancy + Postpartum

Giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic

May 18, 2020Dr. Caitlin Abusamra, PT, DPT6 Min
Baby Lying On A Bed

Stories from new mamas and the latest hospital guidelines

If you are planning to deliver a baby within the next few months, there are a lot of unknowns that can cause a great deal of anxiety. With this in mind, our team at Origin wants to connect expecting moms with a community of other mothers and dedicated providers who are here to help.

Have you been wondering what might change before, during and after delivery?  We gathered information from the biggest hospitals in Los Angeles and real stories from women who delivered recently to give you a better idea of what to expect during this unexpected turn of events.

The biggest takeaways: be your own advocate, come prepared, and stay flexible!

What to expect during pregnancy

Depending on where you live and your city and state guidelines, you might experience decreased access to prenatal resources like massage or acupuncture. This could mean that you approach labor and delivery with additional aches and pains that can make labor more uncomfortable.

Luckily, many businesses are offering virtual sessions, like physical therapy and prenatal exercise classes. There have also been some changes to the standard for prenatal Obstetrician visits. OBGYNs are doing as much care virtually as possible, to limit your risk of exposure. Partners and spouses will likely not be allowed when you do need to go to in-person appointments, but you can always ask your provider to have them join via video.

Photo courtesy of Rita Menezes
“COVID-19 started impacting my pregnancy weeks before delivery. I was forced to stop going to physical therapy, yoga and acupuncture, things that were helping me a lot to get physically and emotionally prepared for my labor and delivery.” - Rita Menezes (delivered 8 weeks ago)

Your Support Team at the Hospital

The biggest change reported with COVID-19 has been a shift in the rules about who you can have with you at the hospital. Here in Los Angeles, as things start to re-open, these restrictions are loosening slowly.

Cedars-Sinai, Providence St. Johns, and UCLA Santa Monica have all reported that one single adult support person is allowed to be present with you during labor, delivery, and now postpartum recovery. However, as of mid-May, they are not able to leave the room and come back - even to move the car, or grab food at the cafeteria. Most hospitals will allow you to order food to the room, but it’s a good idea to prepare with lots of snacks.

At this time, children, doulas, and additional support personnel are not allowed. Some women reported actually preferring this quieter, more intimate delivery without the stress of other family and friends present.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Steingesser
“I had a plan to have a ‘birth party.’ The crew was our doula, my breath teacher, a photographer/videographer, my good friend, and husband. I was going to labor for as long as I could at our house with everyone and then transfer to the hospital once contractions became strong. We also planned to have a postpartum doula and some family and friends around after delivery to help out. None of this happened.” - Debbie Steingesser (delivered 3 weeks ago)

Masks and Testing

At this time, all major LA hospitals have a mask policy that requires all staff, patients, and support persons to be wearing a mask. You may be tested with a rapid Coronavirus test immediately upon admittance.

Most hospitals report general leniency with the mask policy during active labor to allow the mother to breathe. However, we did have moms report deciding to do an epidural when that wasn’t originally in their birth plan due to the increased stress and discomfort around wearing a mask. It’s a good idea to speak with the labor and delivery unit at your chosen hospital the weeks leading up to delivery to stay up to date on their current policies.

"It was very different from my first time. Everyone was wearing masks (nurses were wearing two masks) including me for the whole time I was at the hospital." - A.

Recovery and Discharge

All LA hospitals report that there has been no change to discharge protocols, or any push to go home earlier. However, many women are choosing to leave the hospital as soon as possible. If you do decide to leave the hospital early, identify the medical support you will need before you go.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of what needs to happen after discharge, like managing pain, moving your bowels, and monitoring any stitches in your perineal or cesarean incision. It may be helpful to use a virtual doula, seek out a lactation consultant, or check in with a pelvic floor PT earlier than 6 weeks postpartum for additional support.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Steingesser
"Our postpartum experience was very positive. The nurses and lactation consultants provided so much support. We were discharged a day earlier than we likely would have been pre-Covid, but we were definitely ready to go home." - Debbie Steingesser

Flexibility and Preparation

Managing expectations and keeping a flexible mindset is key as you approach delivering a baby during this pandemic.  The rules are changing constantly.  Because perinatal support is limited, you need to be an advocate for yourself, and make sure your partner is crystal clear on your needs as well.  Even without the Coronavirus playing such a big role in your experience, birth can come with all sorts of surprises. Expect the unexpected, now more than ever.  Remember that the most important thing is ending up with a safe and healthy mom and baby.

Photo courtesy of Maria Del Rio
“Listen to yourself and what feels most right for you. There is so much we can’t control already going into labor and then you add a pandemic and it gets so complicated and can feel overwhelming. Think about what will make you feel most calm and supported considering the circumstances and then do your best to let go of all the rest.” - Maria Del Rio

One final thought from A.:

“For future moms, I’d like to say that trust the care team, be grateful and just be patient!  Time flies and you’ll be home enjoying your new baby in no time!” - A.

Title photo courtesy of Maria Del Rio

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Caitlin Abusamra Headshot
Dr. Caitlin Abusamra, PT, DPT

Caitlin Abusamra, PT, DPT is a doctor of physical therapy specializing in women's health at Origin. She is also an expert in nutrition and personal training.

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