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COVID-19 Childbirth Prep From a Midwife of 40 Years
by Codie Elaine Oliver
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March 27, 2020

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COVID-19 Childbirth Prep From a Midwife of 40 Years

This week, a British-born midwife of 40 years Jennie Joseph shared calming words via video to expecting parents and birth workers such as doulas and midwives addressing the impact COVID-19 is having on childbirth. Jennie is a well-respected health advocate for women and newborn babies with extensive experience working in European hospitals, American birth centers, clinics, and home birth environments. She began her video saying, “Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic has all of us completely overwrought, overwhelmed, scared,” but then said something that struck me as simple but exactly what we all need to hear. “It’s all about the birth plan.”

Many moms are hearing that they can not bring more than one support person into labor in the hospital room with them — no doula, no partner, or loved one. And frankly, that itself is incredibly anxiety-inducing. But we have to remember, hospitals have to protect their staff and patients as well as you. “We’re all in this together” isn’t just a catchy line. Our hospital workers are doing their best to flatten the curve and stop the spread of coronavirus. Many are even forced to stay isolated from their families as a result. 

Regardless of what plan your hospital has in place for you, you can make a plan for yourself. Be prepared.

Codie Elaine Oliver, co-founder of Black Love (Photo courtesy of Christian Adkins, 2018)
Codie Elaine Oliver (Photo courtesy of Christian Adkins, 2018)

I’m not currently pregnant, but I have been twice, and I am keenly aware of the additional implications and challenges that childbirth can carry for Black women in America. As a mom who feverishly studied my options when pregnant (and frankly, before I ever got pregnant), I believe the most important thing we can do is educate ourselves and learn where and what we can control. In childbirth, control doesn’t always look like what we typically expect, it is controlling how you prepare for all scenarios, and that preparation can be empowering. In Jennie’s video, she says, Regardless of what plan your hospital has in place for you, you can make a plan for yourself. Be prepared.” 

Related: Midwives & Doulas: Learning Your Options for Birthing Partners

I’ve compiled Jennie’s tips in hopes of giving expecting moms and dads some peace during this unprecedented time. And in the coming days, BlackLove.com will continue sharing resources for expecting parents to know their options in this changing landscape. #weareallinthistogether

Be prepared.

Even if you’ve been told you may bring your doula or your midwife, or they will be allowed to assist you in the hospital — know that your hospital may change that plan at any point. This is not a time to get frustrated or frightened. Be ready. 

Plan ahead.

Make a plan in advance for how you, your partner, midwife, and/or doula can communicate if separated at the hospital. Keep a cell phone and have an extra battery pack already charged. Have your charger in your birth bag. Get the information for your hospital in advance and practice FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom now. 

Research.

Find out about hospital policies for postpartum and lactation support. Make sure that you at least have all the resources identified that might be available for you so that you are going into your birth as prepared as possible. As far as the evidence shows right now, COVID-19 is not transmitted to the baby while in the uterus. So moms stop worrying about the baby and worry more about yourself.

British-born midwife Jennie Joseph with a patient (Photo courtesy of jenniejoseph.com)
British-born midwife Jennie Joseph with a patient (Photo courtesy of jenniejoseph.com)

Stay safe.

Take care of yourself first, because your baby is safe inside you. When your baby is born, you can breastfeed your baby, but the responsibility is on you to protect yourself to ensure that you can protect your baby once you’re breastfeeding as well. Jennie has a model of care she calls the The JJ Way®, and there are four main tenants:

Access: Find ways to have access to each other no matter what the circumstances.
Connections: Stay connected to loved ones and care providers to be able to manage and survive this.
Knowledge: Find out everything you can right now before you need the information.
Empowerment: You will be empowered when you feel you have prepared for everything and have a small element of control over some things.

“No, you won’t have control over everything. We are in a pandemic, but at least you have power over what you need, what you know, who you love, and how you’re going to operate going forward. We will all be empowered if we take a little moment. Take a deep breath, center ourselves, center each other, take care of each other, and we will survive. We will prevail.” 

-Jennie Joseph

British-born midwife Jennie Joseph (Photo courtesy of jenniejoseph.com)
British-born midwife Jennie Joseph (Photo courtesy of jenniejoseph.com)

Jennie Joseph is a British-trained midwife of nearly 40 years and has become one of the world’s most respected midwives and authorities on women’s health: healthy pregnancies, healthy deliveries, and healthy babies. She’s become a true advocate for systematic reform that puts women and babies first in healthcare before profit, convenience, and the numerous reasons America trails other developed nations in healthy births. Jennie is the founder and executive director of Commonsense Childbirth Inc. and the creator of The JJ Way®, a common-sense approach designed for women and children. She has been in the United States since 1989 and began a journey that has culminated in the formation of an innovative maternal child healthcare system, markedly improving birth outcomes for thousands of women and children. 

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