The world has changed in the last month, even in the last week, the last days. My husband was listening last night to a podcast from two weeks ago—“It’s almost quaint,” he remarked. These changes extend to, and perhaps are even worse for, those who are pregnant. People who got pregnant nine months ago presumably did not imagine they’d be delivering amid a pandemic. It’s scary; women are afraid for their own health and their babies’. On top of this, the landscape of giving birth has been transformed too.
Many hospitals across the country have begun to restrict who can be in attendance at births. For the most part, this has meant restrictions on doulas and outside visitors. But it has sometimes gotten more extreme. Last week, several hospitals in New York extended these restrictions to partners. For about a week, aside from the presence of doctors and nurses, some women who gave birth did so alone. Over the weekend, the state of New York issued an executive order canceling this restriction; partners are now allowed during labor and delivery.
But even with the rollback of this extreme measure, the circumstances of hospital birth have clearly changed, in New York and elsewhere. A woman who, say, envisioned giving birth with her partner and doula and mother alongside her finds herself in a very different situation. Moreover, hospitals in heavily affected areas have gotten scarier. Women worry about infection, either for themselves or their babies. Laboring women and their partners will often be asked to wear gloves and masks during delivery.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this has caused a lot of women close to delivery to reevaluate their plans. I’ve been writing a lot about pregnancy, delivery, and children in the context of COVID-19, and among the most common questions I’ve gotten is: Hospitals seem scary, unwelcoming, and generally not what I imagined. Should I switch to a home birth?