As your due date nears, a question on your mind is: Do I still need to be concerned about giving birth during COVID-19? Though it’s been quite some time since the pandemic began, clinics and hospitals are still maintaining certain safety policies and guidelines to keep all patients – including families and babies – safe.

Even when pregnant during COVID-19, you still have every reason to expect things will turn out just the way you hoped they would. Below are some things you need to know and ways to help you prepare for having a baby during COVID-19.

Talk with your OB-GYN or certified nurse-midwife to understand current clinic and hospital policies

Your OB-GYN, midwife or family doctor who’s providing your prenatal care can help you understand the latest COVID-19 information. They can also help keep you up to date on any changes.

If you have any questions, now is the time to ask. Some questions you might want to get answered include:

  • What health and safety protocols have been implemented to reduce COVID-19 exposure risk?
  • Are there any extra precautions I should be taking at home before my baby arrives?
  • How many support persons can I have by my side in the hospital?
  • Are visitors allowed in the hospital or birth center after my baby is born?
  • If anything changes, how will I be notified?

What you should know about having a baby at a HealthPartners hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic

We know you may be wondering if it’s really safe to give birth at a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the answer is: Yes.

Just like hospitals across the country, HealthPartners has put rigorous COVID-19 safety protocols in place, each designed to protect your growing family. All of our birth centers are open, safe and ready to help you welcome your baby into the world.

You may wonder how these protocols can impact your delivery experience, but rest assured that most people who’ve had a baby during COVID-19 say they felt safer and more at ease than they thought they would.

“The nurses in labor and delivery and postpartum were attentive and anticipated many of my needs,” a patient recently shared in a survey. “Considering the circumstances (COVID-19), I found the experience to be better than I anticipated and I’m thankful for that.”

Another recent patient said: “Despite the pandemic, we received phenomenal care. Everyone was kind and thorough.”

Seeing nurses and doctors in masks and other protective gear shouldn’t feel as jarring as it did at the beginning of the pandemic. But one difference that you’ll likely notice is that you and your support partners will be asked to remain in your room as much as possible and wear masks. So, plan ahead if you can. Pack any special snacks, drinks, books, toiletries and anything else you might want during your stay.

You may also wonder if you’ll need to make any changes to your birth plan. The answer is: No.

Whether you’d like an epidural or you’re hoping for an unmedicated water birth, all our birthing options are available – with the exception of nitrous oxide for pain relief if you’re COVID-19 positive.

What happens if you test positive for COVID-19 when you give birth?

Hospitals have different – and changing – guidelines when it comes to testing for COVID-19. Some hospitals will begin testing pregnant people for COVID-19 on a regular basis beginning at 39 weeks.

If you have an induction or C-section scheduled and test positive for COVID-19 at that time, we’ll figure out how you can have your baby in the safest possible way.

If you go into labor and test positive for COVID-19, you will be monitored for severe symptoms. The hospital may also have specific guidelines about who can be in the room and other safety measures such as mask wearing.

The good news is that there’s a low chance of newborns getting COVID-19 from their birth parent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And most newborns who tested positive for COVD-19 had mild or no symptoms at all and recovered.

Though the risk is low, if you test positive for COVID-19, hospitals may still encourage you to take steps to prevent spreading the virus to your newborn such as:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Wearing a well-fitting mask
  • Keeping your newborn 6-feet away when possible
  • Using a physical barrier like an incubator
  • Isolating for 5 days since symptoms first appeared and 24 hours without a fever (or isolating for 5 days since testing positive for COVID-19)

Who’s allowed in the delivery room during COVID-19?

The guidelines for who can be by your side change based on the prevalence of the virus in the community. It may be necessary for us to limit the number of support persons. But we’ll make every effort to facilitate alternative methods for other support persons, including virtual visits.

Don’t assume a home birth is a safe alternative to going to the hospital

COVID-19 or not, hospitals are the safest place to have your baby.

Our care teams include board-certified doctors, certified nurse-midwives, experienced labor and delivery nurses, and so many others who help bring babies into the world every day. You’ll have access to a range of birthing and pain management options. You’ll also have peace of mind in knowing that highly specialized care is available if needed.

And as mentioned earlier, hospitals have implemented several additional health and safety measures to make it as safe as possible for you to have your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Home birthing can pose health and safety risks

You’ve probably made a birthing plan to guide your experience. And if that plan includes having your baby in a hospital birth center, you don’t need to change it.

Some women choose to make a home birth part of their birthing plan. But the key word here is “plan.” Home births need the assistance of an experienced midwife, not to mention supplies to prepare you and your home for delivery. This means the decision to have a home birth shouldn’t be made in haste or when your water breaks.

Even with proper planning, home births can pose significant safety risks for you and your baby. Also, it’s important to know that home births – even when planned – are not a safe option for every pregnancy, only those deemed low-risk.

If you're a few weeks out from delivering and you’re wondering whether you’re a candidate for home birth, certainly talk with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand your risk factors and connect you with additional resources.

At our hospital-based birth centers, experience meets expertise and safety

Now and always, your safety and well-being are our top priority. But we also know that traditional hospitals don’t always offer a homey environment or a range of birthing options. That’s why we’ve designed our hospital-based birth centers with you in mind.

We want to help you have the birth experience you’ve been hoping for. We offer private birthing suites with modern amenities – including water birthing options. This can make you feel more at home and give you access to specialized care if it’s needed.

Find out if there are virtual tours of your hospital birth center

Choosing where you’ll welcome your baby into the world is an important decision. It’s where you’ll make your first memories together.

Normally, most hospital birth centers welcome pregnant people and their families to tour their facilities well before baby is due. Those in-person tours are on hold for now, but many hospitals and birth centers – including HealthPartners – offer virtual tours.

Think about how technology can be a tool and a comfort

While mobile devices and smart technology have been an essential part of daily life for years, these tools have become lifelines during COVID-19.

So, one of the things that you can do to make being pregnant during COVID-19 easier is to make a technology plan. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, know that you have access to support before, during and after you give birth to your child. You can use your mobile device for:

  • Video visits for prenatal care
  • Virtual childbirth, newborn preparedness or prenatal fitness classes
  • Encouragement, support and connection with family, friends and support people who are unable to be with you

If you don’t have a reliable mobile device, see if you can borrow one from a family member or friend.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine when pregnant

Pregnancy weakens the immune system, meaning that people who are pregnant are at risk for more severe symptoms if they get COVID-19. But the good news is that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is safe during pregnancy. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine all recommend it.

Plus, getting vaccinated may help your baby stay healthier once they’re born. Research shows that vaccinated moms can pass on protective antibodies to their unborn babies, giving them added protection for the first four months of their lives. In the study, babies got the most protection against COVID-19 if their mom got a second or third dose of the vaccine during pregnancy.

If you’re not fully vaccinated by the time you give birth, there are still reasons to get a COVID-19 vaccine. For one, you’ll stay healthier around your newborn. And, if you’re planning on breastfeeding, other research suggests that you can give your baby protective antibodies to COVID-19 through your breastmilk.

Get advice and support from people who’ve been in your shoes

Whether it comes from a new parent, family member or a close friend who has a couple littles, every bit of advice and support helps when you’re getting ready to have a baby. You don’t have to go it alone.

If there’s any bit of good news it’s that you’re not the only one going through pregnany during COVID-19. So, connect with family and friends often. They can help calm any nerves, offer advice and maybe even connect you with moms who’ve had a baby during COVID-19.

If you use social media, join a couple of parenting groups. These groups give you the opportunity to ask questions and connect with others who may be going through the same thing.

Know that you can also lean on your care team. Count on them to answer your questions, give you encouragement and calm some of your fears.

Ready or not, baby’s going to come – and we’re here for you

You’ve got this, and we can help. All of our birth centers are open and ready to meet your every need. Whether your top priority is safety, tranquility, flexibility or all of those, we’re prepared to help you safely welcome your baby to the world.