By Talitha McGuinness Founder and Executive Director, Fetal Health Foundation
For weeks now, we’ve all been inundated with the coronavirus that has very quickly spread from China to essentially all parts of the world, and unfortunately, things are not going back to normal quickly enough for most of us. If you are pregnant and delivering soon or have recently delivered, there are a few things you should be considering for the months ahead, or at least until life as we once knew it resumes.
At the time of this article being published, the US healthcare system was just beginning its fight to treat and cure patients infected by COVID-19, or coronavirus. Many hospitals in the west and mid-west were already starting to feel the strain of not enough beds, insufficient equipment and supplies, and being short-staffed from those being exposed/infected and quarantined for their own treatment. While this all seems so bleak, babies will continue to be born, which means interrupted birth plans and altered ways in which we deliver and thus, celebrate, birth and delivery while in a hospital setting.
Planning Ahead for Healthcare Visits
As long as there is nothing urgent, you will likely be asked to visit with your doctor throughout the remainder of your pregnancy through telemedicine calls. If you have an in-person visit scheduled where an ultrasound or other test is necessary, your care team will likely consolidate as many things within that appointment as possible (i.e. include a prenatal check-up, etc.).
We understand that having a high-risk pregnancy and receiving a fetal syndrome diagnosis will continue to requires more attention. Read more: High-Risk Pregnancy + Coronavirus: Q & A with the Experts
Day of Delivery Expectations
While you have likely spent some thought and time creating a birth plan, one thing to realize is that if your baby makes his or her arrival during or shortly after a pandemic, you will not get to have the normal in-hospital celebrations with family and friends visiting to meet the new bundle of joy. Most hospitals across the US have already restricted the labor and delivery room to the mother and one extra, which sacrifices any extra supports the mom may have planned, such as a doula or family or friends. This has shown an increase in families who choose to have an at-home birth. Just be aware that when you arrive at your hospital, you will likely be tested for coronavirus. If you test positive, but are asymptomatic, and especially if you have symptoms when you arrive, it is also likely that you will be separated from your baby for a time. While this situation is certainly not ideal and is heartbreaking for everyone involved, sadly, this is the state of things during a pandemic.
Once baby arrives, you can certainly utilize social media to announce the arrival and share photos and statistics on birth weight, etc., and even get creative with Facetime and Skype for sharing the baby with grandparents, siblings, friends and everyone else who will want to be part of this special day. The most important take-away is that wherever you choose to deliver, your new baby is brought into the safest environment during this health crisis.
Essential Baby Items + Where to Find Them
We’ve all read about or been to the stores recently and found the empty aisles of toilet paper, but what about essential baby items like diapers and wipes, formula and even baby food? Many of these items are also nowhere to be found or delayed in shipments. Reports advise families to stock up at least 2-4 weeks’ worth of these types of essentials when you have a baby or are expecting one on the way. To prevent exposure or infection, wear a face mask and limit your time out in public while pregnant, and especially once the baby arrives. Have your spouse or significant other shop for you (or see if delivery or pick-up of grocery items is available in your area).
Currently, you can purchase a one-month supply of newborn Pampers diapers on Amazon for around $31. You’ll go through more diapers during the first month than in any other as your baby grows. Larger packs of wipes (600 or more) can be found online at places like Walmart, Target and Amazon for around $14. Due to hoarding and fear of shortages during a pandemic, necessities such as formula may be in short supply. Doctors advise parents to never stretch what formula you have by watering it down, as it could lead to serious complications for the baby. In emergency situations, call your pediatrician or hospital (even on their after-hours telephone line), as they usually have free samples available.
For those hoping to breastfeed, the CDC has reported that COVID-19 has not been detected in breastmilk, but they do not yet know if a confirmed COVID-19 mother can transmit it through breastfeeding. Since your baby’s nutrition and good health is of utmost importance, it might be worth stocking up on formula, just in case you were to become exposed or infected.
If you’re in an emergent situation or are financially strained due to a loss of employment during this time, call Feeding America, a national non-profit known for distributing food and even baby essentials. You can find your local branch here. You can also dial 2-1-1 to find local resources such as crisis centers and churches that may be able to help. You can search online here.
Newborn Precautions + Finding New Ways to Connect
If your baby has recently arrived or will be arriving soon, you will need to make sure now more than ever to stay home and away from any large crowds where the baby could be exposed to coronavirus. The good news is that reports have shown that babies rarely get seriously ill when exposed or infected by coronavirus, and most who do get it do not even show symptoms. Your baby care visits will likely be virtual, by phone or teleconference, in order to keep your baby out of harm’s way. While routine vaccinations are the best and most effective way to protect your baby while so young, your doctor will inform you as to how, where and when those will be given in the weeks ahead. If there is an emergency, call your pediatrician and they can let you know how to proceed or where to visit.
Also, just as you would with any newborn, good hygiene at home is crucial. Keep your hands washed, laundry clean, bottles sterilized (should you be bottle feeding), and do not let anyone visit you during this time. Continue to use Skype, Facetime and other apps to stay in touch with the world around you without risking your baby’s health. This will be just as important for maintaining your own mental health. Being quarantined with a newborn will feel even more isolating, so reach out to people by phone and through social media to feel a little more connected.
Care When Going Back to Work
During a pandemic, it’s important to understand that schools and many businesses will be closed to keep the general population safe and in quarantine. This may mean that if you have older children, they could be in your care along with your newborn. Daycare is not ideal for newborns in the healthiest of situations (and most won’t take babies until they are at least 6-8 weeks old anyway), but certainly not during a pandemic. If you will be able and plan to return to work after the baby is born, consider having a quarantined and healthy family member care for your little one. This would at least limit their exposure and give you peace of mind that they are being cared for by someone you know and trust. If daycare is the only option and they are still being allowed to be open during and throughout the pandemic, a few things to consider include:
*inquire about their policy for sick children and how they separate them should they become symptomatic while at daycare
*inquire about their cleaning and disinfecting procedures as instructed by the CDC
*inquire about their plan for closing, should they be encouraged or forced to do so — how and when will they communicate this plan?
*inquire about your responsibilities should they close — will you be paying for weeks or months of daycare services you aren’t and can’t use?
If you’re lucky enough to have a work-from-home option, you will need to become familiar with teleconferencing and managing a schedule that doesn’t get easily distracted by the growing dirty laundry piles, meal prepping, etc. Your schedule now also includes taking care of your little one while also managing the daily requirements of work.
With all of the uncertainties around pregnancy and welcoming your new baby into your life, it is important to stay healthy and that includes not only your physical health, but also your mental well-being. The pandemic and its aftermath will eventually be a distant memory. Read encouraging parenting books. Focus on getting your nursery and home ready. Watch light and uplifting movies and shows. Talk with those who love you most, who are just as eager to welcome your baby as you are and want nothing but the best for the both of you.