How does Covid-19 influence your birth experience in Singapore?
Covid-19, or the novel coronavirus, was first brought to our attention in December 2019, when the virus started spreading in China. Singapore decided quite early on to implement tighter security measures, and has been continuing doing that. A few weeks back, the government decided to put the country in a lockdown, or #circuitbreaker as they called it. Now how does this implement pregnancy, birth and postpartum specifically?
Gynaecologist appointments: these can still happen as planned, but additional safety measures need to be taken. You need to wear a mask when visiting your doctor (masks are obligated whenever you leave the house now), and your partner is no longer allowed to accompany you to your appointment. Other than that, there are no changes, although some clinics or doctors might implement additional rules for you to adhere to.
Antenatal classes: gathering in groups had been counter-advised for a while before the lockdown was announced, but since this advice was not being generally followed, it is now illegal to meet up with people outside of your household. In fact, you are no longer allowed to leave the house for anything but essential services (and check the list from the government at https://covid.gobusiness.gov.sg/essentialservices/ to double check on what are considered essential services). But fear not! Many large institutions, individual doulas and even hospitals have moved their antenatal classes online. While socialising and meeting other expectant parents is not really an option during virtual classes, you will still benefit from the information you get during these sessions. If anything, a strong, solid basis on how to prepare yourself and what to expect during labour is now even more essential than ever. Like always, inform yourself about the options out there and choose antenatal classes that are close to your philosophy. Here at Caring Hands, we offer virtual private classes as well as a video course you can buy and watch in your own time. Check it out here!
Birth doula: unfortunately, to limit the risk of cross-contamination, birth doulas have been banned from all hospitals except for one, which is Thomson Medical Center (information up to date at 26 April 2020). This is most likely because Thomson is a maternity-only hospital, and has no Covid-19 patients to take care of. There is only a handful of doulas still allowed to go though; 7 doulas have been granted access to minimise exposure. Please contact the Doulas of Singapore organisation if you'd like to be put in touch with someone.
C-section: your hubby is still allowed to accompany you into the delivery suite; however, almost all hospitals have now banned partner entrance into the operating theatre in case of c-section. Current information tells us (information up to date at 26 April 2020) only Thomson Medical Center is allowing partners to enter the operating theatre.
Maternity ward: once you've given birth, only your partner can stay with you, and you can not receive any visitors. That includes but is not limited to a doula, even at Thomson. Know that you have every right to check out earlier than normal and continue your recovery at home. Know that the earliest you can check out after giving birth is 4 hours postpartum, after all your vital signs have been carefully monitored. If this is too soon for you, know you can leave after 1 night instead of the usual 2-3 nights.
confinement nannies: once you are at home, the support network you might have been planning for will also likely be different. The borders between Singapore and Malaysia, where most of our nannies come from, have been closed for a while now. This means no new confinement nannies can come into the country, and you can only engage someone who was already in Singapore taking care of someone else. Unfortunately, this limits your options. If you are looking to engage a nanny, please make sure you start looking well in advance.
Postpartum support: breastfeeding might not go as smooth as you expected and you'd like some more support, either from your postpartum doula or from a lactation consultant if you have more complicated issues. Unfortunately, the government has deemed postnatal services non-essential, but most doulas and lactation consultants will offer virtual support for postpartum mamas. Of course help offered through a screen is not a thorough as it would be in person, but a trained eye can definitely help identify potential issues and offer advice and support. At Caring Hands, we offer virtual postpartum support by our certified midwife!
Family: travel restrictions are still in place, and you may only interact with people living in the same household as yourself. This means your family is probably not able to come visit your new bundle of joy. Make lots of pictures and videos, and do video calls on a regular basis to keep them up to date.
Current restrictions are in place until further notice. We know that the #circuitbreaker will be in place at least until 1 June 2020. If it will be lifted after that, you might be able to have support at home again. We don't know when hospitals will lift their restrictions, but it is safe to say they will not take any risks and will most likely not allow doulas to return to the delivery suite until the virus has been defeated in Singapore.
Know that even though these are tough times, doulas are still here to support you throughout your journey. Even though that support might come from a phone screen during labour, it is support nonetheless, to help you feel like you are not alone in this. Because you are not, mama. You are strong. You will get through this. Don't be too shy to ask for help.