I will start by saying that, even though I am linking a post regarding H1N1, I will neither confirm nor deny what my personal (our family's) choice regarding the H1N1 vaccine in this post. In addition, I will be following up this post with another one on When Women Choose Hospitals (lest you think I am demonizing the health care system).
As hospitals become more and more overloaded with patients worried about their symptoms, the wide spread effects of both seasonal and swine flu infections, the shortage of health careworkersalready noted nationally and globally, there stands to reason one very good question:
How safe is hospital birth right now?
The staffings shortages have already been named the culprit of a fewrecent deaths in childbirth news, and I, as a concerned professional, am worried for this coming year.
We know that there are not enough healthcare workers to staff many hospitals adequately, leading to an increase in inductions (so that hospital staff is secured for those times) and women not having the attention that they need to provide safe and personal care. We know that there are a TON of people with flu-like symptoms flocking to hospitals and being assessed and treated for URI, dehydration, skyrocketing fevers, and the like.
So, couple overbooked, understaffed hospitals with a rise in infections and illnesses, and you have a mixing pot worthy of potential disaster.
This isn't all said to scare women, simply to raise a discussion on the current safety of hospital births in hopes of giving you, the women I care about, valid information, informed choices, and the best options for this time.
There is a great read that I routinely recommend to families to read (regardless) so that they are well versed in what to do if they unexpectedly find themselves unable to get to the hospital in time for the birth of their babes. This book is called Emergency Childbirth; you can read it at the link for free.
This book was originally written for times of war or disaster, when it safer to stay home than to go to a hospital for birth. I am not advocating a rash increase in unassisted childbirth. Although I do believe that UC is a valid option for some families who have planned and prepared for it, I believe that, when possible, and can safely be done so, a professional should attend a woman during her birthing time... I digress...
So, I recommend families read Emergency Childbirth. I recommend highly, HIGHLY considering a homebirth with a professional care provider (homebirth OB, CNM, CPM, etc..).
And finally, I recommend the following considerations if you choose to birth in the hospital environment during this time:
stay at home as long as possible, this means less time around sick people. If you are contracting close together, your ER is less likely to take their time assessing you before moving you up to L&D, it also means less chance of change-of-shift nurses occuring and more unnecessary hands touching you.
Consider a Doula - this seems a little biased, but, as long as she is healthy and stays with you, a doula can help you to be 'left alone' much more than normally because, in some states/areas, nurses recognize how helpful a doula is and they state 'it frees them up to take care of other patients who really need them'. She can also help disuade sick family members from entering (at all - or, without proper scrubbing and a face mask).
ROOM IN! I recommend this anyways, but, if partner can swing it, he/she should simply stay by your side. This minimizes his/her exposure to the outside world while you are both at the hospital. Keep your babe with you at all times. This will minimize his/her risk to exposure from pediatric/nursery nurses, other families, and other babies whose families might be sick.
NURSE! This means less exposure to outside influences for baby as well.
LEAVE EARLY - if you can, request an early discharge - again, less time there, less risk of infection.
If someone is sick, keep them away. I know that everyone (family, friends, siblings, church members, etc..) want to see you and the new bundle of joy. But, again to minimize exposure, don't tell those that don't need to know - don't tell them that you are at the hospital and that they can visit, don't tell them that you are home and can entertain... just keep a nice bubble around you for awhile.
These sound easy, don't they? I just want to see all families make it through this time of extra sickies and less-than-adequate staffing safe and happy.