Emily Oster

6 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Birth in the Time of COVID-19

Emily Oster

6 min Read

Like many of you, I’m struggling to figure out the right way to respond to the pandemic. I’m alternating between frantic obsession with the mundane (moving my course online, making sure my undergrad advisees are getting home okay, planning an elaborate Homeschool curriculum for my kids), sadness over what I know are minor disappointments (summer vacation! my daughter’s first sleep-away camp!), concern for my parents’ health, and existential dread.

I can only imagine this is much, much worse if you’re expecting a baby in the next few weeks. And, indeed, closely following on my last post on conception, I got a number of emails saying, more or less, the horse is out of the barn. What do I do now?

So here are a few thoughts, both on the medical decision-making and on the more mundane task of what you really need to bring the baby home.

First, a starting point. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. Yes, they’re probably almost as confused and nervous as you, but they’ll have a better sense of the right plan given where you are, and the particular hospital situation in your area.

Second, a note on uncertainty. With respect to both the functioning of society and the virus itself, there are a lot of what we’d call “known unknowns”. Our understanding of the virus is rapidly evolving (which is good!), our ability to test is hopefully going to improve, and we’ll know more as time goes on. If we learn of something which changes this, I’ll update you.

Childbirth

Is my baby going to get COVID-19? What if I get it?

I’ve written this before. We do not know that much – sample sizes are small – but the evidence we do have is largely reassuring. Small numbers of pregnant women in China were affected, and they seemed to have an illness course similar to others in their age group. Most of the data on this relies on a cohort of 9 pregnant women in China who presented with COVID-19 and had their babies either right before or right after infection. There wasn’t evidence of in-utero transmission, although a number of the babies did develop COVID-19. One of the infants did die but, and I will stress, this infant had other serious risk factors (namely, he was very preterm).

Most of the evidence we have on the disease in kids and babies (here is one example with a 6 month old) is that they tend to be largely asymptomatic, but can still spread the virus.

Should I avoid prenatal visits?

No, probably not. It may be your doctor says some of the more marginal visits could be conducted by phone, if you are low risk. But not having prenatal checks also entails significant risk. For example, a missed case of pre-eclampsia can be extremely dangerous. Wash your hands, maybe do not take the bus to the office, but don’t avoid the doctor.

I am worried about hospitals in my area being overwhelmed when I’m due; should I induce early now?

This depends a little bit on what you mean by “early” and on your hospital situation. New guidance (from something called the ARRIVE trial) provides support for induction at 39 weeks (for all low risk women, not just related to COVID-19). I think there is some nuance in how we should interpret this data (perhaps this is for another newsletter) but it is reassuring if you want to induce at 39 weeks. So if you are 39 weeks and were on the fence about induction, I can see a case for going forward.

But if you’re 37 or 38 weeks – or even less – I believe the answer is no. Inducing at this stage is likely to increase your risk for a C-section, and your infant’s risk for needing NICU care and respiratory support. Precisely what you do NOT want to be needing right now.

Should I have a home birth if I wasn’t planning one already?

Some people have home births; I talk about this choice in Expecting Better and if you’re thinking it through in general, there are lots of cites there that might help. I try to take a balanced view on the issue.

The question I have been getting about COVID-19 is whether you should switch now to planning an homebirth.

I cannot emphasize enough: No.

The data suggest home birth does entail some risk at any time – this doesn’t mean you do not want to do it, just that you want to be aware of them – and it seems likely these risks are larger than any COVID-19 risks. In addition, if you’re currently 38 weeks pregnant you’re talking about trying to set up a home birth in a week or two. Home births are much, much safer with experienced providers and you may well not have time to find one.

Beyond this, a reasonable share of home births – about half, especially with the first baby – end up requiring an emergency hospital transport. If the medical system is overwhelmed, this will be among the worst things to need. And if you are worried about viral exposure, emergency transport is likely to be a lot riskier than an orderly hospital admission through the delivery ward.

After Birth

A few more practical details…

Everything is shut, I cannot shop. What is the minimum set of things I need when I bring my baby home?

We could all minimize a bit more. Here is my must have list.

Nursery

  • A crib, with two sets of sheets
  • Someplace to change the baby
  • A place to sit for feeding

Clothing

  • Onesies (let’s say 10)
  • Sleepers (4)
  • Diapers
  • Few side-snap shirts for before the belly button falls off
  • Swaddle blanket (2) (yes, you can use a regular blanket for this but your life will be easier if you get something like the miracle blanket that doesn’t require you to be an expert to use)
  • Two or three other blankets.

Transport

  • Car seat
  • Some type of stroller (probably; could get a fold-up base that the car seat goes on)
  • Some type of baby carrier (you may want to get out of house and may feel more comfortable with the baby strapped to you)

Food

  • If you are formula-feeding: formula, bottles
  • If you are breast-feeding: boobs (check!), nipple cream and pads.
  • If you are breast-feeding: some backup formula. I know I will get flack for this but: breastfeeding may not work. Sometimes it doesn’t. You may need to supplement. Please, please stock at least some formula and bottles, just in case.

Can I let other people see the baby?

Generally, most people recommend keeping the baby pretty isolated for the first few weeks. This recommendation is heightened during a viral pandemic. So, non-urgent visitors, no. Grandparents? At this point the medical risks are highest to them, so the decision is probably more about the risks on their end than to the baby.

Should I take my baby for vaccines?

YES. OMG, YES. If we have learned nothing else it should be in the value of vaccines against virus illnesses.

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Milestones. We celebrate them in pregnancy, in parenting, and they’re a fun thing to celebrate at work too. Just a couple years ago I couldn’t have foreseen what this community would grow into. Today, there are over 400,000 of you here—asking questions, making others feel seen wherever they may be in their journey, and sharing information that supports data > panic. 

It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents. 

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm. 

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”

Milestones. We celebrate them in pregnancy, in parenting, and they’re a fun thing to celebrate at work too. Just a couple years ago I couldn’t have foreseen what this community would grow into. Today, there are over 400,000 of you here—asking questions, making others feel seen wherever they may be in their journey, and sharing information that supports data > panic.

It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents.

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm.

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”
...

I spend a lot of time talking people down after they read the latest panic headline. In most cases, these articles create an unnecessary amount of stress around pregnancy and parenting. This is my pro tip for understanding whether the risk presented is something you should really be worrying about.

Comment “link” for an article with other tools to help you navigate risk and uncertainty.

#emilyoster #parentdata #riskmanagement #parentstruggles #parentingstruggles

I spend a lot of time talking people down after they read the latest panic headline. In most cases, these articles create an unnecessary amount of stress around pregnancy and parenting. This is my pro tip for understanding whether the risk presented is something you should really be worrying about.

Comment “link” for an article with other tools to help you navigate risk and uncertainty.

#emilyoster #parentdata #riskmanagement #parentstruggles #parentingstruggles
...

Here’s why I think you don’t have to throw away your baby bottles.

Here’s why I think you don’t have to throw away your baby bottles. ...

Drop your toddlers favorite thing right now in the comments—then grab some popcorn.

Original thread source: Reddit @croc_docs

Drop your toddlers favorite thing right now in the comments—then grab some popcorn.

Original thread source: Reddit @croc_docs
...

Just keep wiping.

Just keep wiping. ...

Dr. Gillian Goddard sums up what she learned from the Hot Flash  S e x  Survey! Here are some key data takeaways:

🌶️ Among respondents, the most common s e x u a l frequency was 1 to 2 times per month, followed closely by 1 to 2 times per week
🌶️ 37% have found their sweet spot and are happy with the frequency of s e x they are having
🌶️ About 64% of respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of the s e x they are having

Do any of these findings surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

#hotflash #intimacy #midlifepleasure #parentdata #relationships

Dr. Gillian Goddard sums up what she learned from the Hot Flash S e x Survey! Here are some key data takeaways:

🌶️ Among respondents, the most common s e x u a l frequency was 1 to 2 times per month, followed closely by 1 to 2 times per week
🌶️ 37% have found their sweet spot and are happy with the frequency of s e x they are having
🌶️ About 64% of respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of the s e x they are having

Do any of these findings surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

#hotflash #intimacy #midlifepleasure #parentdata #relationships
...

Should your kid be in a car seat on the plane? The AAP recommends that you put kids under 40 pounds into a car seat on airplanes. However, airlines don’t require car seats.

Here’s what we know from a data standpoint:
✈️ The risk of injury to a child on a plane without a carseat is very small (about 1 in 250,000)
✈️ A JAMA Pediatrics paper estimates about 0.4 child air crash deaths per year might be prevented in the U.S. with car seats 
✈️ Cars are far more dangerous than airplanes! The same JAMA paper suggests that if 5% to 10% of families switched to driving, then we would expect more total deaths as a result of this policy. 

If you want to buy a seat for your lap infant, or bring a car seat for an older child, by all means do so! But the additional protection based on the numbers is extremely small.

#parentdata #emilyoster #flyingwithkids #flyingwithbaby #carseats #carseatsafety

Should your kid be in a car seat on the plane? The AAP recommends that you put kids under 40 pounds into a car seat on airplanes. However, airlines don’t require car seats.

Here’s what we know from a data standpoint:
✈️ The risk of injury to a child on a plane without a carseat is very small (about 1 in 250,000)
✈️ A JAMA Pediatrics paper estimates about 0.4 child air crash deaths per year might be prevented in the U.S. with car seats
✈️ Cars are far more dangerous than airplanes! The same JAMA paper suggests that if 5% to 10% of families switched to driving, then we would expect more total deaths as a result of this policy.

If you want to buy a seat for your lap infant, or bring a car seat for an older child, by all means do so! But the additional protection based on the numbers is extremely small.

#parentdata #emilyoster #flyingwithkids #flyingwithbaby #carseats #carseatsafety
...

SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear. 

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.

SLEEP DATA 💤 PART 2: Let’s talk about naps. Comment “Link” for an article on what we learned about daytime sleep!

The first three months of life are a chaotic combination of irregular napping, many naps, and a few brave or lucky souls who appear to have already arrived at a two-to-three nap schedule. Over the next few months, the naps consolidate to three and then to two. By the 10-to-12-month period, a very large share of kids are napping a consistent two naps per day. Over the period between 12 and 18 months, this shifts toward one nap. And then sometime in the range of 3 to 5 years, naps are dropped. What I think is perhaps most useful about this graph is it gives a lot of color to the average napping ages that we often hear.

Note: Survey data came from the ParentData audience and users of the Nanit sleep monitor system. Both audiences skew higher-education and higher-income than the average, and mostly have younger children. The final sample is 14,919 children. For more insights on our respondents, read the full article.
...

Happy Father’s Day to the Fathers and Father figures in our ParentData community! 

Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛

Happy Father’s Day to the Fathers and Father figures in our ParentData community!

Tag a Dad who this holiday may be tricky for. We’re sending you love. 💛
...

“Whilst googling things like ‘new dad sad’ and ‘why am I crying new dad,’ I came across an article written by a doctor who had trouble connecting with his second child. I read the symptoms and felt an odd sense of relief.” Today we’re bringing back an essay by Kevin Maguire of @newfatherhood about his experience with paternal postpartum depression. We need to demystify these issues in order to change things for the better. Comment “Link” for a DM to read his full essay.

#parentdata #postpartum #postpartumdepression #paternalmentalhealth #newparents #emilyoster

“Whilst googling things like ‘new dad sad’ and ‘why am I crying new dad,’ I came across an article written by a doctor who had trouble connecting with his second child. I read the symptoms and felt an odd sense of relief.” Today we’re bringing back an essay by Kevin Maguire of @newfatherhood about his experience with paternal postpartum depression. We need to demystify these issues in order to change things for the better. Comment “Link” for a DM to read his full essay.

#parentdata #postpartum #postpartumdepression #paternalmentalhealth #newparents #emilyoster
...

What does the data say about children who look more like one parent? Do they also inherit more character traits and mannerisms from that parent? Let’s talk about it 🔎

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingcommunity #lookslikedaddy #lookslikemommy

What does the data say about children who look more like one parent? Do they also inherit more character traits and mannerisms from that parent? Let’s talk about it 🔎

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingcommunity #lookslikedaddy #lookslikemommy
...

SLEEP DATA 💤 We asked you all about your kids’ sleep—and got nearly 15,000 survey responses to better understand kids’ sleep patterns. Comment “Link” for an article that breaks down our findings!

This graph shows sleeping location by age. You’ll notice that for the first three months, most kids are in their own sleeping location in a parent’s room. Then, over the first year, this switches toward their own room. As kids age, sharing a room with a sibling becomes more common. 

Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity

SLEEP DATA 💤 We asked you all about your kids’ sleep—and got nearly 15,000 survey responses to better understand kids’ sleep patterns. Comment “Link” for an article that breaks down our findings!

This graph shows sleeping location by age. You’ll notice that for the first three months, most kids are in their own sleeping location in a parent’s room. Then, over the first year, this switches toward their own room. As kids age, sharing a room with a sibling becomes more common.

Head to the newsletter for more and stay tuned for part two next week on naps! 🌙

#parentdata #emilyoster #childsleep #babysleep #parentingcommunity
...

Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster

Weekends are good for extra cups of ☕️ and listening to podcasts. I asked our team how they pod—most people said on walks or during chores. What about you?

Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster
...

Humility. That’s why. That’s the whole reason.

#emilyoster #secondbaby #parentingjokes #parentinghumor

Humility. That’s why. That’s the whole reason.

#emilyoster #secondbaby #parentingjokes #parentinghumor
...

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET 
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

Bug season is upon us. Besides annoyance, this can bring up safety concerns, particularly with ticks. They are carriers of diseases, most notably Lyme disease. So what’s the best course of action?

Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
...