With COVID-19 increasing hospitalizations and barring visitors, non-elective (I use that word loosely—I know of someone who couldn’t have brain surgery) medical procedures have been canceled or postponed. But there’s one type of hospital visit that rarely happens on anyone’s timeline—birth.
This is certainly true for influencer and media personality Ali Levine, whose birth of her first child, Amelia Rei, did not go according to plan. While she wanted to have a tub birth at a birthing center, but she ended up needing a C-section. So, she was hoping for a better situation when she became pregnant with her second daughter.
A Nightmare in New York
In March, mothers giving birth at Mt. Sinai and New York Presbyterian hospitals were forced to give birth alone, as hospital administrators banned partners in labor and delivery, which is truly unconscionable. While Levine lives in Los Angeles, she began to worry. Although Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to reverse this in New York, it’s hard to say what could happen in Los Angeles because Governor Newsom hasn’t addressed this issue.
“So many hospitals are deciding and deciphering for themselves. So some allow partners in labor and delivery, others don’t, some right at pushing and none for postpartum,” Levine tells me.
So, essentially, she can go into labor any time, and hospitals can change their policies while she's crowning. How can mothers be assured their safety will be taken seriously?
Making a Change
Levine started a petition on Change.org that now has nearly 35,000 signatures to allow support for labor, delivery, and postpartum. “I started the petition because no mother should ever birth alone. Being eight months pregnant, I find this absolutely horrifying and downright devastating for myself and all mothers right now. All mothers deserve support. That shouldn’t even be a question.”
Postpartum Support Is More Important Than We Think
There’s also the issue of postpartum, not just for the mother, but also for the baby.
Levine says, “Birth is so much more than just having a baby. The mental health of women is also at risk when it comes to birth and the way their birth goes. The support part of it is crucial. Moms knowing they aren’t alone, in such a beautiful yet vulnerable and intense moment in their lives. When a woman gives birth, she is essentially reborn. In that rebirth, there are so many factors that play into it that can either help a mom be set up for success, (especially a new mama) or be set up for heartbreak, mental health issues, postpartum depression, and anxiety. There are a lot of layers when it comes to a woman and giving birth.”
Birth is so much more than just having a baby. The mental health of women is also at risk when it comes to birth and the way their birth goes.
Not allowing partners throughout the support process is essentially a return to the 1960s when women were drugged and men relaxed in the waiting room. “These aren’t the dark ages, birth alone, sedate a mom and boom there’s the baby. No, we’ve come too far in the birth world for that. It’s supposed to be a beautiful experience for the mother and their partner to witness their child being brought into this world and the bonding that comes from the experience itself and after,” says Levine.
While Levine's first birth was traumatic, her husband Justin was there every step of the way. “As traumatic as it was and the recovery right away was very hard and painful, I was so grateful to have my husband by my side physically and emotionally to help me through it. My birth team also helped me feel comfortable and advocate for myself. All of that made it less traumatic than it could have been,” she says.
It’s her belief than postpartum is just as important as labor and delivery. “Your partner should absolutely be a part of that. When the mother moves over to postpartum/recovery, she is exhausted and most likely in pain from whatever delivery she had,” Levine says.
Forbidding a partner outright also ignores the real dangers that can happen postpartum. Levine says, “Physical and emotional complications can also arise a few hours to a few days after giving birth. Your partner again can advocate for you and notice something that might be off and get help before there’s a greater problem.”
Physical and emotional complications can also arise a few hours to a few days after giving birth. Your partner again can advocate for you in this situation.
Moms need support to take care of a new baby, including possibly asking for more medication, and needing help to get in and out of bed and changing clothes. Even without a pandemic, there isn’t enough staff to help mothers with everything they need. Nurses are already stretched thin, which is yet another reason why partners need to be there throughout the entire process.
We’ve all had to make major sacrifices, but expectant mothers and newborn babies shouldn’t be put at risk. Are their lives and safety less important than anyone else's, especially when the rate of infection in California is far more contained than other states? Testing partners as well as requiring them to stay in the hospital, wear a mask, gloves, or any other protective gear could be part of a solution to this problem.
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