There are a lot of unknowns in healthcare right now. Dealing with the coronavirus has been challenging and care providers are doing their best to provide the quality care to their patients while managing safety of the entire healthcare team. As you read through the following list of 10 questions to ask your care provider, remember to have patience with them as well. Things are changing in their world just as fast as they’re changing in yours and they might not have all the answers for you. Also, they might have answers that will change. Having patience right now is going to be critical.
Keeping working on your plans for healthy and positive birth experience. Have patience, but also have persistence with your questions. What is a policy or best practice today might not be different tomorrow. There is a chance that when you show up at your birthing location that something that you’ve thought was one way, might end up being the other way. Mentally prepare for this situation.
10 questions to ask your care provider when giving birth during the pandemic
Question 1: If I am positive for the COVID-19 virus, how will that change my delivery options?
Many hospitals are testing for COVID-19 upon admission and have special protocols if a patient is exhibiting symptoms. Positive patients might be moved to a separate birthing area within the hospital and/or have extra precautions in place to prevent the spread of the virus to the healthcare workers.
Question 2: What can I do as a birthing person to protect myself from becoming infected while I’m staying at the hospital?
Some things to consider include whether or not you will be given a mask to wear in labor or if you should bring your own mask. Will there be any protective steps taken to limit my exposure to the virus?
Question 3: Will my partner be able to attend or be with me during birth?
This policy has changed a lot during the pandemic. At one time, New York City was only allowing birthing people in. Partners were not allowed entry into the hospital at all. Things are changing fast. What might be true now might not be true in a month from now or a week from now, who knows? We don’t really know. Talk this over with your partner. If you have a due date in the next six weeks, I think this is something that you should spend time talking over with your partner. What would virtual support look like? How you can use a cellphone, a laptop, a tablet to bring your partner in and both provide support and be present virtually during the birth of your child. While it might not be a reality now, preparing for it is not a bad idea.
Question 4: Can I have my doula there or have my doula as virtual support?
If you were planning on having a doula support you at your birth, there is a fairly likely chance that doulas will not be allowed to join you to support in person during your birth. This could be different in your location, but a lot of hospitals are limiting to the number of people in the hospital. If you are planning to work with a doula, virtual support can still be a big help in labor. Your care provider might have examples to share with you that they have seen in action. Also, make sure to take time to practice virtual support with your doula. Practice what it would look like, when you would contact them. What is the way that you’ll communicate with your doula during the birth? Will they be on FaceTime? Will they be on Zoom? Make sure you have all the tech really ironed out so that you can take get the best support.
Question 5: Will inductions still happen? Will I have access to an elective induction?
Right now a lot of hospitals are facing shortages of beds and as a result they are changing policies around elective inductions. Inductions often increase your time in the hospital and are usually longer than spontaneous labors. As you’re preparing for birth make sure you have a conversation about the best way for labor to begin and your options on this topic. This is especially critical if you were planning an induction or you had already talked to your care providers about an induction.
Question 6: Will I have access to the regular facilities and the typical options for birth?
Some hospitals are limiting movement once you are assigned to a labor and delivery room. You might not have access to walking the halls in labor. You and your partner might not have the freedom to walk to the kitchen, cafeteria or even return to your car. If you know your options for your facility you can better plan your stay. If you know you can’t leave your room, then you will want to pack a cooler of food and drinks. If you know that you can’t walk the halls in labor, you will know that you will be pacing the room as an alternative.
Question 7: Will I have access to other personnel like lactation consultants?
Generally, a lactation consultant is available during your hospital stay. How is access to this specialized professional impacted at this time. Perhaps the hospital based lactation consultants are doing virtual consultations after you are back home. While it’s not ideal, the truth is that we’re not living in that kind of world right now. Right now we’re in our plan B. What I don’t want is for new moms to come home after a birth and just feel like they have no resources because you can’t have anyone come to your home and you have to limit your exposure that way. That just know that virtual resources can also be excellent.
Question 8: When will I be discharged from the hospital after birth? If I leave early how do I prepare?
There are likely new recommendations for your post-birth hospital stay. You will want to ask if you have the ability to leave the hospital early. If your care providers are recommending that you leave the hospital early, what will support look like after you leave the hospital? Will there be a telehealth visit to check on your recovery? There might be things that your partner needs to learn in order to monitor your health after birth. Ask your provider if you need to have any equipment on hand like a blood pressure cuff or heart rate monitor.
Question 9: What do you recommend for having visitors after the birth?
Many families plan to have family, friends or even a postpartum doula help out after they return home after birth. What is the best recommendation for having people in your home after birth? If you have a baby and two weeks later you have self-quarantined after your hospital stay, is it okay to have a postpartum doula? Is it okay to have family, friends? What does your care provider recommend for having people come to your home after the birth? The reality is that your care provider might not have an answer to this right now, but they likely have recommendations. It’s certainly something to start thinking about now, especially if you are giving birth in the next six weeks and knowing what can you do to prepare for those early days is important.
Question 10: What is the best way to get the current information about what’s going on in the facility?
Care providers have various strategies for communicating the latest information with patients. I have seen important messages posted on websites, on Facebook pages and inside of patient portals. So that you are best prepared for the changes happening with your care make sure that you know where to seek our the most up to date information. Rumor can spread quickly during this time of uncertainty. You don’t want to find yourself going down that rabbit hole of rumor and speculation because it’s probably not very productive and can lead to extra stress and misinformation. Determine the trusted source and stick with it.