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  2. Giving birth

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Birthing Partner During Coronavirus: What You Need to Know When Giving Birth During COVID

If you’re giving birth during coronavirus, you’re likely wondering what may have changed at the hospital with regard to visitation and the number of birthing partners that are allowed. In this Flo article, we give you the lowdown on the situation in the delivery room in COVID times, so read on for answers!

Having a trusted birthing partner by your side in the delivery room is considered an essential part of a safe and positive childbirth experience, according to guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO).

To help prevent the spread of COVID, many hospitals are restricting the number of visitors allowed during and after labor and delivery. There may also be restrictions on how long your birthing partner can stay with you once the baby arrives. The rules vary from facility to facility and across different regions, so it’s important to check the latest policy with your care provider leading up to labor day.

A survey conducted in March and April 2020 of 500 doulas in 23 countries found that they were not allowed in the delivery room due to tightened hospital restrictions and had to support people through labor virtually during the pandemic.

Rules also differ between hospitals on whether birthing partners can attend vaginal delivery, elective cesarean section, or emergency C-section. When there’s a safety concern and an emergency C-section is needed, your birthing partner might not be able to join you in the operating room. But a partner may be able to wait in a dedicated room close to the operation ward, and skin-to-skin contact between your partner and newborn might still be possible during C-section.

The rules very much depend on the epidemic situation in your country and specific region. However, in almost every country, if a pregnant person has COVID-19 immediately before or during delivery, a birthing partner won’t be permitted to attend. Barring that situation, typically, a partner’s support during delivery is allowed if they meet a few qualifications: 

- The birthing partner is an immediate family member or relationship partner.

- At the time of delivery, the birthing partner doesn’t have symptoms of acute respiratory viral infection.

- The birthing partner gets a negative result from a PCR COVID-19 test, usually within the last 24 hours to one week before delivery.

Be sure to ask your provider about how many birthing partners you can have, as many hospitals have their own guidelines.

According to the NHS, pregnant people in the U.K. are allowed to have one birthing partner present during labor and birth, as long as they don’t have any symptoms of coronavirus. If your birthing partner has symptoms or has been asked to quarantine, they might not be able to join you at the hospital, so it’s a good idea to have someone else in mind as a backup just in case.

At U.S. hospitals, you may be able to have one to two people present with you during delivery, depending on the specific hospital’s requirements. Patients are also invited to use video calls to bring in more people to provide support during the birthing process.

In Australia, you can have one birthing partner with you during coronavirus. While at the hospital, you’ll be restricted to one visitor per day, so it’s likely that some family and friends won’t be able to come visit you and your baby. 

At many hospitals, you can choose whoever you want to be your birthing partner. It could be a family member, close friend, or caregiver by your side. Some facilities have limitations on visitor age and don’t allow children under 18. Be sure to check the current policy with your provider. 

Birthing partners are advised to follow expert guidance on social distancing and self-isolation before delivery to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Some hospitals will not admit a visitor who has recently traveled to another country until they’ve finished a mandatory quarantine. Prior to delivery, birthing partners should contact the hospital to discuss arrangements, timing, and how to maintain physical distance. 

Some hospitals will screen all visitors for COVID upon entering, while others may require proof of a recent COVID test or vaccination. Others take temperatures and ask about symptoms. If your birthing partner is waiting for the results of a COVID test, they will need to wait until the results show they are negative in order to enter the hospital.

“The checklist for a birthing partner during COVID includes practicing social distancing before delivery, wearing a mask, and washing their hands. Also, make sure to check with the hospital about whether a negative COVID test is needed.”

Your birthing partner will likely be given personal protective equipment, including a medical face covering, which should be worn during the entire visit at the hospital. They should also be sure to practice good hand hygiene by washing their hands regularly, especially after blowing their nose, sneezing, or coughing. Additionally, there may be designated toilets for hospital visitors that your birthing partner should use, and they may not be able to walk around the ward unaccompanied.  

Some regions and clinics have a list of necessary protective supplies for birthing partners, so it's important to make sure they’re prepared beforehand. They’ll also need to make sure they’re changing their face mask as required by the hospital.

The COVID pandemic has had a big impact on hospital policies. To keep people safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus, many hospitals have limited the number of birthing partners you can have, and the rules differ from facility to facility and change over time. Be sure to check with your care provider about their latest regulations if you’re going to be giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO Team. “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Pregnancy and childbirth.” World Health Organization, 2 Sept. 2020, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-pregnancy-and-childbirth

“Pregnancy and coronavirus (COVID-19).” NHS, 13 May 2021, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk/pregnancy-and-coronavirus/

“COVID-19 & pregnancy: What you need to know.” Kaiser Permanente, n.d., https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/health-wellness/maternity/healthy/covid-19-and-pregnancy

“Having a Baby During the Coronavirus Outbreak.” UVA Health, n.d., https://uvahealth.com/services/covid19/birth-coronavirus-faqs

“Coronavirus (COVID-19) and having your baby.” Pregnancy, Birth & Baby, July 2020, https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/coronavirus-covid-19-and-having-your-baby

“Family/Designated Support Persons & Visitors of Patients.” Alberta Health Services, 25 May 2021, https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page17001.aspx

Searcy, Julie Johnson & Catañeda, Angela N. “On the Outside Looking In: A Global Doula Response to COVID-19.” Front. Sociol, 19 February 2021, https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoc.2021.613978, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsoc.2021.613978/full

Nana Hayashida et al. “Dads-to-be banned from delivery rooms as Japan hospitals fear spread of coronavirus.” The Mainichi, 26 April 2020, https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200424/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

Podishetty, Akash. “World Coronavirus Dispatch: Hong Kong clinics ban fathers during childbirth.” Business Standard, 19 December 2020, https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/world-coronavirus-dispatch-hong-kong-clinics-ban-fathers-during-childbirth-120121900640_1.html

“Hospital visitor guidance.” NHS Harrogate and District, 12 April 2021, https://www.hdft.nhs.uk/news/hospital-visitor-guidance/#maternity-services-8211-updated-12-april-2021

Hovhannisyan, Ani & Kozak, Tetiana. “Women are being forced to give birth ‘alone’, in post-lockdown Armenia and Ukraine.” Eurasianet, 18 July 2020, https://eurasianet.org/women-are-being-forced-to-give-birth-alone-in-post-lockdown-armenia-and-ukraine

“Visiting in Maternity and Neonatal Settings During Covid 19 Pandemic from 13 May 2021 - Minimum Standards.” https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/advice-and-guidance/2020/06/coronavirus-covid-19-hospital-visiting-guidance/documents/coronavirus-covid-19-maternity-and-neonatal-settings-visiting-guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-maternity-and-neonatal-settings-visiting-guidance/govscot%3Adocument/Revised%2BVisiting%2Bin%2BMaternity%2Band%2BNeonatal%2BGuidance%2BFinal%2B2%2BDecember.pdf

“Birth partners and coronavirus.” NCT, 16 December 2020, https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/coronavirus-and-birth/birth-partners-and-coronavirus

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