Positive Birthing through COVID-19
Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Positive birthing during the COVID-19 Pandemic
27th March 2020
Over the past week I have had many messages from expectant parents worried about the way their birth may go along with the anxieties of the unknown. I hope this blog post will help many women understand their options along with what they can and what they cannot control during this time. Even during a pandemic many women continue to experience positive births, so can you!
Most recently I posted an image from The Counselling Teacher on social media identifying factors you can control and those you can not during this difficult time. I’ve since had messages from expectant parents thanking me for putting this into perspective. It’s a really useful thing to think about in many situations when your brain goes into an anxiety fuelled overdrive.
One thing we practice during Hypnobirthing includes increasing confidence and releasing fear. Many women can use this skill to change their outlook on a particular worrying situation. So while the Corona Virus situation develops and changes women’s birth options the use of relaxation techniques and fear release scripts can help massively during this time. If you haven’t completed a Hypnobirthing course there is still time. Although I usually run Group face to face sessions I have now moved to Online sessions using Zoom.
So what changes are we currently seeing in maternity services?
As The Corona Virus develops home births in many areas are now not an option with front-line staff being pulled onto the Labour wards and some birthing units are being used as isolation units. More women are now changing their plans to birth in the Obstetric units. Expectant women are also being asked to attend antenatal appointments and scans alone feeling anxiety levels rising while leaving many expectant parents frustrated and upset. Although many of these changes are required to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and protect as many people as possible its ok to feel disappointed. Take time to acknowledge this situation, how you feel and have a cry, voice your frustration. Even though many negatives are being thrown into the situation have a read through what this actually means in more detail and how you can turn this around.
Birthing in the hospital
We know birthing in the hospital can increase the level of intervention during labour and birth, often due to time restrictions the environment and blanket policies. However there are ways to help your body adapt to the environment, during our Hypnobirthing workshop we discuss the importance of your senses. Here are a few ways to help:
-Try an eye mask/dark sunglasses to block out the bright hospital lights- reducing the adrenaline release.
-Wear earphones/ear plugs to reduce outside noise helping you focus on yourself rather than the hustle and bustle of the hospital environment. You can listen to your favourite music, relaxation scripts or positive affirmations. Wearing ear phones also helps people direct their conversation to your birth partner in the first instance when you may not have needed to be interrupted. If you are required your birth partner can ask the questions in a calm and gentle way reducing stress.
-Use essential oils- these may include Lavender, Clary Sage, Geranium which all help with relaxation and can help reduce pain.
-Take something you enjoy to eat, you’ll need energy so having snacks and plenty of fluids will help. Tasting something you enjoy will help you feel relaxed while helping your energy supplies.
-Making your birthing room look good visually will also play a key part, take battery operated candles and twinkly lights to decorate the room. A vision board which you can make up during the pregnancy to remind you all all the positive things can help. Some expectant parents who have attended my course have included scan photos, photos of each other, hand drawn pictures of hot air balloons, waves and the words ‘up, up, up’ or ‘down, down, down’ which we often use during relaxations/visualisations to remind them to stay focussed. The boards I’ve seen are beautiful reminders of a positive pregnancy and will help create that positive birth experience.
We now know anyone with suspected or confirmed Corona Virus are being declined use of the pool due to the uncertainty of Covid-19 being transferred through water (RCOG Guidance). However are other ways to include water in your birth experience if this becomes your situation. Standing under the shower can provide comfort, relaxation and pain relief, water acts in a similar way as a TENS Machine altering the signals to the brain. You could also enjoy a bath and ask your birth partner to pour water over your abdomen or back where you would like relief.
Limiting birth partners in labour
Usually you are able to have 2 birth partners during labour and birth whilst in hospital. Due to the risk of infection many hospitals have now limited women to 1 birth partner. Choosing your birth partner is so important in this case, many women I speak to want their mum and partner for different types of support they now have to choose. This choice needs to be right and of course having a back up birth partner is essential in case your first choice becomes unwell or requires isolation.
Partners may not be allowed onto the postnatal ward
To limit the spread of the virus, many hospitals have limited visitors to the postnatal ward this may just be your birth partner and in some hospitals this could mean none. Although this time will be difficult your length of stay should be shortened during this time meaning you can get back to your home as soon as possible. Limiting visitors will also reduce the risk to you and your baby.
Although these changes are out of your control remember that image from The counselling Teacher. What do you have control of?
You can still control many aspects of your pregnancy, labour and birth including your space, birth partner and how your body feels and reacts to the stresses of the outside world. Using Hypnobirthing techniques can help you remain calm, relaxed and in control, reducing fears and increasing confidence. Something which has never been quite so important as now.
Listening to your body, understanding how it works both the physical aspect as well as the psychological aspect is crucial. You can help your body along with these ideas:
Control your mental health
-Practice Hypnobirthing Techniques- use relaxation scripts, self hypnosis and visualisations to increase confidence and release anxiety and fear.
-Talk it out- discuss your concerns with your birth partner, Midwife Hypnobirthing Teacher and Doula. See what ideas they have which you may have not yet thought about.
-Gratitude- Everyday think of 3 things you are grateful for, this has been proven to help improve mental health.
Control your environment
-In early labour consider if you can stay at home as long as possible, get that Oxytocin flowing with a bit of comedy, cuddles with your birth partner and resting when possible.
-Listen to your favourite music
-Play relaxation scripts and positive affirmations
-Dim the lights- lower those adrenaline levels by creating a calm place
-Make a vision board- looking at positive items whether thats a baby scan photo, reminders to breathe slowly or positive affirmations will all help during both pregnancy and birth. This can be taken into the hospital with you too.
-Taking a blanket or cushion from home to the hospital can help the environment feel a bit less clinical and remind you of your safe, positive place.
-Use headphones to keep conversations to a minimum and limit outside noise
-While in hospital move the bed to the side of the room, create space to use birthing balls, stools or just the floor space. Staying upward, forward, open (UFO) is so important where possible and can help create 30% more room for baby to move down during birth.
Controlling discomfort during your contractions/surges/waves
-Water is highly effective to reduce discomfort whether you use the shower, bath or pool
-TENS Machine- Can be used at home all the way through labour
-Hot water bottles are really useful while at home and can be placed on your back or legs to relieve discomfort
-Eye masks, ear phones or ear plugs can all help you zone into yourself blocking everything else out when you need it the most
-Essential oils including Lavender, Geranium, Clary Sage and Rose all help with relaxation and reduce discomfort
-Massage is a brilliant way to release Oxytocin, ask you birth partner to give you a light touch massage to help you relax
-Using movement including walking, swaying and rocking can all help you feel more comfortable, find what works for you and remember UFO!
-Nipple and clitoral stimulation both are huge oxytocin boosters. Oxytocin is the hormone which makes you feel happy and also the hormone needed for labour to progress.
Finally remember you are still in control, no matter where you birth and which way the labour turns you always have choices. Use your BRAIN!
Benefits- What are the benefits of accepting or declining the procedure?
Risks- What are the risks of accepting or declining the procedure?
Alternatives- What else could you try?
Instinct- What does your body tell you should do? You should always consider your instinct.
Nothing- What if you do nothing? For whatever length of time you choose
Remember you are in control, you body, your baby, your birth.
If you would like more information about Hypnobirthing or would like to join our Hypnobirthing course via Zoom (don’t worry it’s not as scary as it sounds), please get in touch. This can be offered as a private course or a small group session on a weekend.
Hypnobirthing Workshop led by a Hypnobirthing Teacher, Nurse and Health Visitor
A goody bag full of treats for you and baby
Access to a private Facebook Group
Access to our Hypnobirthing and Positive Parenting books
Ongoing support until baby’s birth
A postnatal visit (depending on restrictions within Durham/Newcastle/Gateshead/Sunderland) otherwise a Zoom call to reflect on your experience.
All information correct as of 27/3/20