How did the COVID-19 Pandemic Impact Our Birth Parent Work at the Agency?

Written by Lucy Shaw, March 2022

There has been much discussion, hypotheses, articles, etc., about how the pandemic has affected the adoption landscape. And while it is a complicated issue, with many different people and organizations feeling disparate impacts, we now have been through two years of the pandemic to look back on and reflect on.

COVID-19 Has Had A Significant Impact On Low-Income Women

One of the disparities that has been most noticeable to me as a social worker/birth parent advocate/outreach worker is that the COVID pandemic and its negative after-effects have been MOST harmful to low-income women.

When daycare, schools, and businesses shut down, women had to bear most of the responsibility of childcare alone without income to support them.

If they were essential workers, their job became more dangerous, and many had to quit their jobs due to a lack of available childcare.

Healthcare Became Less Accessible for Pregnant People

Another very obvious effect of the pandemic was the impact to the healthcare sector, especially OB/GYN and Reproductive Health.

With COVID patients overwhelming hospitals and clinics, and health care providers and administrators struggling to protect themselves and staff throughout a very chaotic, unknown and unpredictable surge in infections and death rates, it’s no wonder that healthcare became LESS accessible for pregnant people.

An article in Reproductive Health, from January 2021, states: “In the US, an online survey of 4451 pregnant women found nearly a third reported elevated levels of stress, with alterations to prenatal appointments cited as a major reason for this elevation. [60]. A modelling study on the indirect effects of the pandemic in 118 LMIC estimated a reduction in antenatal care by at least 18%, and possibly up to 51.9%, and a similar reduction in postnatal care [61].”

I found this to be true in my own direct work experience at Adoption STAR.

The majority of pregnant women who contacted Adoption STAR to learn about their pregnancy options and/or the adoption planning services we offer didn’t find out they were pregnant until around 20 weeks into their pregnancy and not started prenatal care. They expressed hesitancy about seeking care during the pandemic or were having trouble scheduling and getting to prenatal care appointments.

A Critical Need for Options Counseling Emerged

At the same time that the healthcare system was becoming less accessible to pregnant people, options counseling (including information about parenting resources, abortion and adoption) was more in need than ever.

Our Birth Parent/Expectant Parent data from 2020 reflect that there was a critical need for adoption planning during the first wave of the pandemic/shutdowns.

In April, May and June of 2020, we saw a high number of pregnant people choosing to make an adoption plan, with the majority of these placements being “last minute”. A last-minute placement is when a birthing parent reaches out to us when they are in labor or after their child is already born. This is likely the only time they received any counseling about their pregnancy/parenting options and adoption was one of the only options left available. With that in mind, it is not surprising that in April and May of 2020, we saw an historically high surge in last minute placements.

A Hopeful Return to Normalcy

Personally, I’ve seen some brightness in terms of the healthcare system rebounding lately.

In NYC, it is starting to feel like business as usual in terms of healthcare delivery. Hospitals have been lifting their restrictions on number of support people allowed at delivery now that people can be tested and vaccinated more quickly. Clinics are returning to in-person services and “non-essential” services. Pregnant people seemed more ready and able to seek out healthcare.

From an outreach perspective, we are seeing more hospital and health centers requesting in-person trainings and in-services! And as part of the New York State Perinatal Association conference planning committee, we are super thrilled to be returning to an in-person conference this year in June 2022! Once again, pregnant and parenting people will be able to access the supportive services needed to help them through difficult and challenging pregnancies and birthing experiences!

It is my hope that in 2022, we can work together with healthcare providers throughout New York, Ohio and Florida, to rebuild the relationships and partnerships that COVID may have interrupted, as well as increase our training and service delivery so that all people can receive options counseling regarding their pregnancy if needed.