Background: The COVID-19 pandemic forced hospitals in the United States to adjust policy and procedure in order to provide safe care and prevent the spread of disease. At the beginning of the pandemic, media and case reports described pressure for medical interventions, visitor restrictions, separation from newborns, and an increase in patient demand for community birth (home and birth center). The purpose of this study was to describe birth experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic centering the birthing person's perspective. Methods: A survey was e-mailed to users of the Ovia Pregnancy app reaching a national convenience sample who gave birth between March 1, 2020, and June 11, 2020. Survey topics included birth location, the Mothers on Respect index, and open-ended questions capturing patient perspectives on the pandemic's effect on their birth experiences. Differences were assessed based on state-level COVID rate and by race. Content analysis was performed to analyze open-ended responses. Results: Respondents from highly impacted COVID-19 states more frequently changed or considered changing their birth location. Racial differences were also found with Black respondents reporting significantly more preterm births and lower respect scores when compared to White respondents. Six themes emerged from the content analysis: Institutional Policies, Changes in Care, Hospital Staff Interactions, Sub-par Care, Issues of Support, and Mental Health. Discussion: The health care community must continue to adapt policies and procedures to best support birthing patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The community must also continue to address the reality that Black patients receive less respectful care compared with White patients.
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