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Giving birth during Covid-19: what to expect at your birth place

If you are birthing during this pandemic, you might feel your stress levels rising and your list of questions growing larger. You aren't alone!

This is a time of uncertainty. Sometimes knowing what to expect in any situation can ease your anxiety and help you feel calmer about what you will be facing.

Below are some common questions and things to expect at your birth place at Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. If you are birthing at home with a midwife or with the midwives at Flagstaff Birth and Women's Center they have fewer restrictions and you can ask your midwife for their specific COVID-19 protocols.

Your care providers can be a great resource for asking some of your questions, but if you still have questions or don't have time for all of your questions or concerns, we have you covered in some of our commonly asked questions below.

How many visitors can I have with me? You can have one visitor or support person come to the hospital with you. This person can't swap out with anyone else and if they leave they can't come back in.

I've heard I have to wear a mask the whole time I'm in labor-How will I be able to breathe? FMC provides both you and your support person with a mask. You and your support person must wear a mask whenever a staff member is in the room. Once you are in the pushing stage of labor, a staff member is continuously there. If you are uncomfortable or having trouble breathing ask if you can remove your mask.

With my last baby I walked the halls a lot-can I do this now? No, you are restricted to your laboring room. If you need water refills, snacks or something heated up you can push your call button and ask a nurse to help you.

What if I'm sick/or have tested positive for COVID-19? All laboring people are tested upon arrival and if you test positive or have symptoms you will labor in a room specifically designed to minimize risks to hospital staff and other families on the labor and delivery floor. The room is a little smaller and has a negative pressure design so there is an exhaust fan set up in the window of your room. Your nurses and care-provider will take extra precautions with wearing full PPE equipment when they enter your room.

Will my baby be separated from me if I'm sick or test positive?

This will be your decision and you can have a conversation with your nurses and caregiver about the pros and cons of you and your baby of remaining together. The CDC, ACOG and WHO all recommend keeping babies and moms together to breastfeed with some precautions put into place.

What is FMC doing to minimize my exposure to COVID-19?

Many of the restriction we have talked about so far are designed to help reduce your exposure during your stay such as visitor restrictions, checking everyone's temperature, COVID-19 testing, wearing masks and PPE, keeping you in your room and restricting COVID-19 positive people to a restricted room. Most of the staff has also received their vaccines.

You can also minimize your exposure by laboring at home as long as possible unless you have any medical concerns, washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask and requesting early release if you and baby are healthy with no concerns.

Are they restricting anything else in the hospital? Yes, you are not allowed to use diffusers during your stay. But you can use any scents on a tissue or cotton ball, just not aerosolizing them in a diffuser. Otherwise, you can bring anything else you want to use to help you with comfort measures during labor.

With the restrictions, is there anything you would recommend bringing or doing differently? Yes, a couple of things that are helpful.

With visitor restrictions, don't rely on someone leaving to pick up food to bring back to the hospital. Bring enough food and snacks to keep you happy during your stay. The hospital food is okay but you might crave something specific or be hungry when the cafeteria is closed. You have a room refrigerator so you aren't limited to foods that are prepacked or don't require refrigeration. Bring a good hearty meal to eat after your baby is born-you can ask a nurse to heat it up for you in the snack room.

In labor, heat packs can feel really good on your back and hips. Often people use rice socks or water bottles that need heating up in a microwave. Because you can't leave your room to use the snack room microwave you need to ask a nurse each time you need something (they are busy and might not be able to help you right away), so consider bringing a plug in heat pack.

I already mentioned this one, but another thing to consider and plan for is to stay home as long as possible. This is always something we recommend but particularly during a pandemic. Staying home as labor gets more intense can be, well intense and its helpful to have prepared with a good birth class and if possible get extra support for both you and your partner.

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