4 Things You Still Can Control If You Are Pregnant During This Pandemic
This is one of the wildest times in so many people’s lives. It’s even wilder if you are expecting a baby. That space between being yourself and being a vessel for a tiny, growing human is daunting without a global infectious disease outbreak. This health crisis has caused a huge number of childbirth education classes to be cancelled and millions of pregnant people to feel lost and scared. Social distancing can make you feel isolated and out of control since everything you knew just a couple of weeks ago has been uprooted.
Pregnancy and anxiety generally go hand-in-hand for many folks...and we know the impact of the "fight or flight" hormone cortisol on fetal development. This study shows an inverse relationship between maternal cortisol and fetal growth. This one, while it is older, posits that higher fetal exposure to maternal cortisol could be linked to low birth weight, which is also widely believed today. This anxiety not only impacts your baby, but also your ability to think clearly when it comes to your birth.
While anxiety is often associated with loss of control, I want to challenge you to reframe the way you think about the anxiety brought on by COVID-19. The way you channel your anxiety will define the difference between a birth filled with advocacy and one filled with trauma. This pandemic has no doubt changed your prepping and planning for giving birth, but now is not the time to give up! There are so many places that you are still in control and here are the four most important ones.
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You Are In Control of Where You Give Birth
Whether that’s the hospital, a birth center, or your home, you get to choose. Birthing centers across the nation are closing, forcing people to birth in the hospital. On the other end of the spectrum, thousands of women are exploring homebirth as an option. If you are thinking of a home birth or freebirth, know that you are not alone. There are so many expecting parents right now who are weighing their options and are considering a new birth experience.
You are also still in control of when you go to that birthplace. This doesn’t mean you’re still birthing at the original place you had planned. No matter how this has shaken things up for you, you get to choose where you’re going to have your baby. Don’t confuse this with getting to have your baby where you wanted because that may not happen, but out of the choices still available to you, you make the choice. This is important because choosing a place and provider is essential to helping you relax in birth and avoiding a common mistake in labor of birthing at a place you don’t fully feel supported.
You Are In Control of What Position You Birth and Push In
Truth! Pushing on your back is NOT the only way to push out your baby. As a matter of fact, the research is pretty clear that it’s one of the least supportive positions when it comes to protecting your perineum and preventing tearing! Many folks feel trapped to push on their back, due to an epidural, and it's just not the case that you have to. Depending on the mobility of your legs, you should be able to get into a variety of positions for pushing.
Not only do you get to control the position you push in, but you get to control how long you birth for and when you feel comfortable taking the next step in progressing labor (if you need that). Remember to give your body the time and space it needs to birth a baby.
You Are In Control of Your Mindset
This is something so many folks discredit when it comes to preparing for your birth. I love to remind birthing people that 90 percent of labor is mindset and I truly believe that! Your contractions (if no augmentation takes places) are not bigger than you because they are you. You get to decide how you will react to information given to you during labor and delivery. Will you allow the news that your doula can’t be in the room cause you to spiral with anxiety or will you get creative and tap into resources like online birth education. Remember, most things that happen in birth happen with enough time that you can take a moment to feel the emotions, collect your thoughts, and ask questions.
You Are In Control of the Questions You Ask
The part about asking questions is crucial because this is exactly what allows you to stay in control. “I got to control the decisions made about my body and care because no decision was made until all of my questions were answered and I had the chance to think about my options and what I wanted. That’s why having you was so helpful,” shares one mom who had a baby during the pandemic and had virtual doula support during this time. Making sure that you ask the right questions at the right time with the right words can make all the difference and that’s why having a doula, even in this corona-season, is crucial.
It may seem trivial to deconstruct your day to a few things you are still in control of, but the fact that there is still something within your control shows you that you still have a voice. Use that voice. Channel the voice inside your head to make a new plan. Use the voice inside your heart to guide your decisions on what’s best for you. Use the voice inside your mouth to communicate what you need from your team so you can reach your goals.
For more information on giving birth during this unprecedented time, check out Preparing to Give Birth During the Coronavirus Pandemic.