Though most day-to-day life is suspended due to COVID-19, one thing can’t be put on pause: childbirth.
On average, more than 10,000 babies are born every day in the United States.
Preparing for labor in the best of times is nerve-wracking, but coronavirus has meant pregnant women face additional challenges such as changing birth plans, social isolation, and financial issues.
Zoom medical support, from virtual doulas to telehealth lactation consultants, has replaced the very intimate personal support system. And women giving birth, particularly in hospitals, must comply with new restrictions in terms of visitors and labor options (to prevent possible COVID spread).
Sometimes fathers can’t be present at a baby’s birth. And if allowed, they must be tested and found COVID negative before they’re allowed in the delivery or recovery room.
Health care facilities, on a case-by-case basis, may separate women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 from their newborns until there is no longer a concern for transmission.
But many mothers are in the hospital all by themselves, not knowing how long they will stay and when they will see their families.
Inspiring new parent stories
Brave mothers are dealing with these challenges—often alone.
Kate Glaser, 32, of Buffalo, was diagnosed with COVID-19 at 39 weeks pregnant. Glaser shares her story and is now participating in a study by Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester to measure the effects of breastfeeding while COVID positive.
In New Hampshire, COVID-positive and pregnant Rocio Casalduc checked into the hospital. She was asked if she had to choose between her baby and her life, which would she choose? She pleaded with doctors to save her baby. She was intubated and went into a coma for three weeks. When she woke up, Rocio was surprised to meet her newborn baby girl, Victoria.
In reading about 20 moms who shared their covid birth stories, I was struck by the human capacity to find the silver linings in anything. These mothers say there are less distractions in the hospital since there are no visitors, you get “loved on extra,” and you go home sooner. And “my husband is working from home and has been able to help me so much more than he would have otherwise.”
One woman who was in the NICU for nine days said “I feel all the [range of] feelings and come back to thankfulness. Brand-new babies have a way of putting everything into perspective.”
And here’s news that relieves the anxiety of some new moms: A recent study found that wearing a mask while nursing and washing your hands before handling babies keeps the coronavirus from spreading from mothers to infants.
Sometimes virtual choices won’t do
Pregnant women and newborns require a lot of bonding as well as medical oversight including antenatal, delivery and postnatal services.
New families require support to start breastfeeding, and get medicines, vaccines and nutrition to keep their babies healthy.
Telemedicine is not effective for newborn checkups, but luckily, wearing protective equipment has proven effective to minimize transmission during these appointments.
Highlight of The Week: Stepping up for a family and newborn son in their hour of need
Zully went into the hospital 8 months pregnant with a cough and fever. She discovered her child would need to be born weeks early. Since her husband and son also tested positive for COVID, so when the child was born, it wouldn’t be safe for him to go home.
Just before she went on a ventilator and was put in a coma for weeks, she desperately called her older son’s English as a second language teacher, Luciana Lira, for help. Lira was 100% willing to help, and took in baby Neysel as his family recovered.
“This baby would have not [stood] a chance if he went home,” said Lira, “He was just a preemie.”
Challenge of The Week: Help out new parents in your community
It’s pretty common for parents and siblings to arrive to help with a newborn in the immediate days and weeks after a birth. However, with COVID, most families can’t see the new baby in person or fly out and stay in the new parents’ homes. So more mothers and fathers are isolated, stressed, exhausted and struggling to cope with going it alone.
Here are a few small ways you can help a neighbor or community member. COVID may restrict in-person visits and assistance, but getting and delivering groceries or supplies, texting positive messages, and calling to listen and be encouraging is something we can all do. Parents magazine also offers these five suggestions for supporting new parents in isolation.
And, you can post on your local NextDoor site, reaching out with a specific offer to help a new mom or dad in need.
Kendall Webb – Executive Director