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Natural Homebirth Tips, Homebirth Midwifery
I have talked with several expectant parents over the last week who have due dates in the coming weeks about the fears they are experiencing related to the novel coronavirus and COVD-19. And being in the Seattle area, we are among the first in the nation to see the impacts on our birthing families. And as the spread continues, we are seeing more and more families all across the country ask about switching to home or birth center births, so I want to share some information to help you prepare for what that could look like, to lessen some fear around out-of-hospital birth, and give you 3 tips for making any transition in birth less stressful, whether it's from hospital to home or if you do need to transfer your planned home or birth center birth to the hospital while everything about the hospital environment is uncertain right now.
For over 10 years now, I have been teaching expectant parents who are planning for out-of-hospital births in their homes or local birth centers, and that always comes with some education about what happens if they need to unexpectedly transfer to the hospital.
I never, ever thought the cards would be reversed, but that is certainly the case today as many people nearing their due date are asking if a hospital is the safest place to be in the midst of the COVID-19 situation and some are even wondering if there will even be an option for healthy people to birth in a hospital if beds and staff become unavailable. Additionally, even for those who will still labor and birth in the hospital, it is likely that you will not be admitted as early as you might have been in the past as hospitals are trying to do everything possible to limit any potential exposure.
The other concern we are seeing raised is from families who are choosing out-of-hospital birth and managing additional fears that come if they have to transfer to a hospital for a medical reason while wanting to be out of the hospital now more than ever. The information in this post will help you, too.
For those initially planning a hospital birth but now considering a home or birth center birth, this kind of decision comes with fear, worry, and uncertainty for so many people involved. First, as the one giving birth, who hadn't planned to be out of the hospital, this can come with fear over loss of access to certain options, the top of the list for many being an epidural for pain relief. And some families may be concerned about not having access to fetal monitoring or other equipment that can make you feel safer in birth.
All the reasons you may have chosen a hospital birth can suddenly feel ripped away and out of reach, and this will leave you with so many questions!
Your birth partner is probably also feeling increasing stress of managing a potential change of birth location, as many birth partners who will be accompanying you at a hospital birth will have some comfort that the hospital staff will be alert and overseeing any potential complications and directing the overall care and now they may feel that more of this responsibility will fall on them if you are not at a hospital. Further, if you had expected to have an epidural that you may not have access to now, your birth partner may be feeling the concern about their ability to help you through labor in a different way than was previously planned.
It can trickle out further as well if your extended family may be adding their stress and concern over your birth onto your already high stress level, and though they are well meaning in their concern, they often induce even more fear and anxiety than they realize that you don't need right about now! If you are getting too much stressful unsolicited advice or questions, reassure them that you are seeking advice from experts who are prepared for this situation (and then follow the advice in this article so you stay true to your word!).
I know this whole situation is stressful, I know that you might not know what is the best thing to do right now and, I know it all feels a little out of your control.
But, I also know that you will be ok and that there are thousands of us in the birth world that are ready to help you through this.
Until very recently in human history, birth has been in the hands of midwives, mothers and sisters, and we have successfully given birth this way throughout the ages. In fact, someone is doing it right now, as I wrote these words, and as you read these words, babies are being born in all types of places, with pain meds, and without, with monitoring, and without, and they are all making it happen, and you will too.
I know, what you're thinking, "I've heard this before", but this is different, everything has suddenly changed and we need history to reassure us and teach us right now. So, I will encourage you to keep reading, because here's how you can do it.
#1 Find your people
Midwives, doulas and the whole birth community are available for you. Midwives are coming out of retirement to support the increase requests for out-of-hospital birth providers, last minute emergency home births, or to act as backup, and they are putting systems in place to provide coverage should any midwife get sick. Doulas are also putting the same systems in place to provide extra coverage if needed. As a birth support community, we are also sharing information with each other about what is happening in all of our local hospitals in regard to how many support people are allowed at births, whether or not support people can leave the labor room and come back in, and anything else that changes in these unpredictable times that might affect your birth.
Having this kind of network at your fingertips is invaluable right now and can help you best prepare for whatever situation you might face for your birth environment. Find these people in your community. If you are not tapped into the midwife or doula network, ask friends and family members who might know doulas, check with local prenatal yoga instructors while you can or look for mom's groups in your area and ask about local networks they might know of to provide support. You might have to look online for these groups as many in-person classes and groups are closing down for some time.
#2 Have open conversations with your birth partner
This is a time to be open about all of your fears and concerns regarding your birth and the current state of things. Going to your birth afraid and quiet about it means you might not have the full support you need at the time you need it most. Changing your birth environment last minute, whether it's from an out-of-hospital to a hospital or vice versa, is always intimidating so addressing any fears you have ahead of time and making your birth partner and your birth team aware of them will help reduce some of your fear so you can focus on having your baby knowing your team is there to support you and help you through any challenges.
In our online childbirth course, we spend a lot of time helping our couples understand their fears and challenges as well as their strengths and what excites them for their birth. They learn techniques and skills that are appropriate for their personality type so they can have open and honest conversations with one another and be confident that they know how to support each other. You can read more about that here if you are interested in learning about how your personality type impacts your birth and your birth preparations so you can use these methods to prepare for your birth.
#3 Be ready for anything
None of us can predict what will be happening weeks or months from now, or even tomorrow for that matter. This is a time that justifies being prepared to have your baby anywhere. That means having supplies at home, even if you expect to be at a hospital. It also means, having supplies for a hospital, even if you plan to be out-of-hospital.
If you need one, you can download a list of out-of-hospital birth supplies here. Being prepared with the right supplies to support a last-minute change of plans will eliminate so much stress and help you stay focused on yourself rather than trying to get everything you need when it might be too late and will definitely be too stressful.
Being ready for anything also means being prepared with the right information. Now more than ever taking a good childbirth class, even if it's online (read our recommendations about choosing a high quality online childbirth course) will help you prepare for what to expect, what challenges you might face, and how to get the support you need during birth.
Finally, being prepared might mean having a doula available, even if you can't take them to the hospital with you, having them available before and after your birth will be an investment you won't regret. If you require a hospital birth but your hospital is no longer admitting doulas, your doula can help you during early labor so you can stay home longer and limit your time in the hospital. They can be your support and guide throughout your early contractions and help you gauge when it's the right time to go the hospital so you don't get turned away by going too early. While you are at the hospital, they can prepare for your return home so you can settle in quickly and calmly.
Having support and being prepared are the most essential things you can be doing right now to manage stress while the whole world learns to operate differently.
Remember that you are not alone, you have so many people and resources available, you might find this whole situation leaves you more loved and cared for than you ever imagined! The only thing keeping you from having a calm and amazing birth experience is asking for help, so if you haven't done so already, reach out and find your people, find your classes, connect with your birth partner, and feel all the love around you!
Here's to your wonderful journey to birth,
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