Being a parent is the single most important job in the world, and somehow comes with the least amount of training. Even at the best of times, under the most ideal circumstances, becoming a new parent is stressful. The COVID-19 pandemic is adding a whole new level of stress and anxiety to an already challenging time for expecting parents.
With so much information flying around, it’s important to provide accurate, actionable information for new parents who have COVID-19 concerns. I’ve been helping families and answering their questions for over 10 years. Here’s what new and expecting parents should know about having a newborn in this environment.
One of the most common questions I’m fielding is if pregnant people have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. It’s far too early for me or any doctor to say one way or another. Most early studies have been promising in that the risk doesn’t seem higher for pregnant people, but the studies are small and not conclusive.
Something important to note is that pregnant people are at a higher risk of complications from illnesses such as influenza or other infections. The safest thing to do is to be extra careful during your pregnancy.
Another common question is if there are things pregnant people can do in their day-to-day to stay safe and prevent exposure. Again, this is the time to be extra careful.
Precautions may include:
Many parents are concerned about transmission from pregnant parent to baby. Unfortunately it’s too early to say if this is a risk, and no studies have documented transmission of COVID-19 across the placenta. It can’t be ruled out at this time, so the very best thing you can do is take appropriate measures to avoid contracting the virus.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Some expecting parents are feeling nervous about going to their doctor’s office or hospital for appointments or delivery. This is completely understandable considering the circumstances we all find ourselves in. Please know that medical professionals are well aware of the situation, and are taking extra precautions to protect their patients.
If you have concerns, it’s always okay (and encouraged!) to ask questions. Ask your obstetrician if they have any special entrance requirements for you, or about any other safety measures they’re taking. You can also ask if any appointments can be safely skipped or delayed, so long as you follow their advice. Once you’re in a medical clinic, be sure to avoid unnecessarily touching surfaces.
As with any delivery, it’s best to be as prepared as possible. This means knowing your birth plan and having contingencies in place if, for any reason, your ideal plan isn’t possible. Knowing your plan(s), and communicating with your obstetrician early and often, is the best way to avoid any surprises when the big moment comes.
Some things to consider:
All new parents are scared out of their minds. There aren’t enough books or classes in the world to help prepare, but there’s comfort in knowing that your fellow parents are all feeling a similar mashup of emotions and that providers have your back. That’s the power of community.
Caring for a newborn comes with a million questions and concerns—this pandemic is multiplying them, and that’s okay. No one (especially new parents) should ever feel bad about asking their doctor questions. Here are some common ones:
Is breastfeeding safe if I have COVID-19 or am feeling ill?
Breastfeeding is a personal choice. That said, the protective effects for an infant’s immune system are well documented. COVID-19 diagnosis shouldn’t prevent you from breastfeeding, but you should wear a mask and wash your hands before and after each feeding.
What safety measures should I take for my newborn’s wellness checks?
Well checks for your baby are critical and shouldn’t be missed or delayed. Call your pediatrician’s office to check if there are any special entrance rules or suggestions.
What if I or my partner become ill once the baby is born?
If you, a partner, or a loved one living in the home become ill, you/they should call your/their doctor. Wear a mask when feeding and wash your hands before and after feeding to be safe.
What questions should I ask the pediatrician during my baby’s well checks?
It’s our job as pediatricians to make sure you feel as comfortable and informed as possible. Ask as many questions as you need to. For example, illnesses in newborns can be subtle, so you might consider asking for signs to look out for and when it’s time to give them a call. They may also provide guidance on keeping your baby safe from infection.
Is it safe for other family members to meet the baby?
Having a new baby at home can be exciting for so many people—family, friends, coworkers, you name it. As hard as it is, limiting exposure is the most important thing for your baby’s health. What does this mean?
Bringing a baby into the world is stressful no matter what, just like all big life changes are. We’re living in a time of heightened discomfort and uncertainty, but you’re not in this alone. Communication, plus extra planning and care, can help ease anxiety and minimize risk for you and your baby.
Pediatricians are taking extra measures to ensure the safety of our patients however we can. At Brave Care, we’re keeping our clinic open, we have new protocols for entering and exiting our space, and we’re now providing virtual care for patients in 12 states (with more to come). You can learn more about that here.
Ask questions, follow appropriate guidelines, and stay safe. Your care providers are here for you.
This piece was originally published in Natalist.