Hospital systems that are at the center of testing for and treating COVID-19 related symptoms have banned all visitors from their facilities. In New York City and in the surrounding region, several hospitals have even started to ban partners joining mothers during childbirth.
But support for soon-to-be mothers will still be available on Connecticut and Long Island.
New York-Presbyterian and Mount Sinai emerged as the first two hospital systems in New York City to ban the partners of expectant moms from labor and delivery rooms.
The decision sparked backlash from mothers and childbirth support services concerned about heightened risks during labor. Tempestt Harris, of Northport, Long Island, is a full spectrum doula — a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and educational support to a mother.
“It’s not an ideal situation for our clients,” Harris said. “However, you know, we understand that these precautions are put in place to keep everyone safe and to flatten that curve we keep hearing about.”
New York and Connecticut health officials have issued guidance to hospitals to allow at least one support person — a partner, midwife, doula — to accompany patients in labor. And many Connecticut and Long Island hospital systems say they plan to honor that — as long as expecting parents follow their policies and procedures to protect mother and baby.
“They cannot leave the hospital, they have to stay with the patient. There's no swapping of visitors,” said Dr. Mitchell Kramer, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health. He recommends maintaining routine, scheduled visits with the OB-GYN. Check ups with blood work and ultrasound are still needed.
“Listening to the baby's heartbeat, feeling the patient's abdomen and belly,” he added.
You may have to wait for your appointment in your car. Patients in labor with COVID-19 symptoms would need to go to a designated hospital.
Questions and some concerns can be dealt with over the phone, through telemedicine and patient portals.
“With the OB service, it's business as usual,” Kramer said. “And we are all working very hard to keep some semblance of normalcy for having babies.”
Nonessential, pregnant workers, stay at home. Do try to limit exposure to the coronavirus. Wash your hands.
“It's totally expected that pregnant women are going to be anxious and scared during this time,” said Dr. Christopher Morosky, an OB-GYN at UConn Health.
He said social distancing at home doesn’t mean being anti-social — talk with a partner, family and friends about your prenatal care.
And health professionals will continue to try to learn about coronavirus infection in pregnancy.
“What we seem to understand is that pregnant women are no more likely to acquire the infection than people in the community,” Morosky said “Pregnant women may have a worsening of their respiratory status compared to non-pregnant women.”
Meaning pregnant women could have worse symptoms of COVID-19, like they would with another respiratory related illness, like the flu. And Morosky said it doesn’t seem like the baby can be infected with the virus during pregnancy.
But Moms, your pregnancy and prenatal care differ from someone else's. Call your support system, OB-GYN and the hospital you intend to give birth at to plan ahead.
“If you can find the strength in you to just relax, release and let go in the midst of chaos, that prepares you for what your childbirth experience will be like,” said Chanel Jones, a doula from East Setauket, Long Island. “So take a deep breath, pause and breathe it out.”
She advises her expecting parents to understand that their best laid plans could change, because the baby will stop for no pandemic.
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