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Delivering a Baby During a Pandemic

So you’re having a baby during a global pandemic? Guess what? Me too.

My name is Frankie Cropper and I’m the digital media manager here at OhioHealth. As I write this, I’m 32 weeks pregnant with our third baby due in the middle of June.

If you’re reading this and pregnant, we’re probably experiencing a lot of the same feelings. I went from thinking everything would be fine to having a couple of panic attacks, then imagined I would have to give birth all alone, followed by some more fun feelings. I’ve finally reached (I think) a level of peace with it all.

When I volunteered to write this blog post, I did so hoping that I could help other pregnant readers out there find their own peace, and calm some anxieties about the inevitable birth of our babies, pandemic or not.

To do that, I talked with Jason Melillo, MD, the medical director of Women’s Health at OhioHealth, to get the facts about what being pregnant and giving birth during the COVID-19 outbreak means for us.

So, is it safe to go to hospitals right now?

“Yes, the hospitals are safe. Any patients who have or are suspected to have COVID-19 are kept on a few specific floors at each care site. Labor and Delivery and postpartum units are kept separate, and if there are any pregnant patients with the virus, they will be laboring in a remote section of the unit. Everyone in the hospital is wearing masks now as well, which reduces the risk of exposure for all.”

Chiming in with my own little story here. An unfortunate case of vertigo sent me to Labor and Delivery at OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital a few weeks back, and it may have been the best thing for my anxieties. Labor and Delivery was business as usual, with the exception of everyone wearing face masks, but I felt very safe and very well cared for. And all six of my friends who have delivered in the past month (I am not exaggerating) said they had great experiences at their hospitals.

What precautions have been taken to keep women who are delivering safe?

“Every precaution we could think of. We are limiting maternity visitors to only one support person per patient. This will help minimize exposure for not only patients, but our associates as well. We are also taking the temperature of all our hospital associates daily to screen for fever, and are screening all patients who enter the units for symptoms of the virus or any signs of recent exposure. And we have cancelled many nonessential, in-person consultations, like childbirth classes and diabetes education in favor of online or group Zoom classes.”

What is being done during postpartum to keep women and their babies safe?

“Your baby will be spending a lot of time with you while you are both in the hospital. To minimize exposure, babies will be rooming with their moms for the entire stay. The only exceptions would be for any exams, procedures or testing that may need to be done in the nursery. But, even then, the number of babies in the nursery at any given time will be strictly limited. Some routine testing will be done in your room, so we don’t have to move your baby unless necessary.”

Are people being discharged sooner than they typically would postpartum?

“While patients are free to stay as long as they need, most women are electing to leave as soon as it is medically safe to do so. For most women, this may be the first postpartum day for vaginal deliveries, and the second for cesarean sections. Certainly, the decision to discharge a patient depends on how the mom is feeling, whether it is safe for the baby to be released, and how your clinical course is progressing. Speak with your physician about your expectations about length of stay, and when you and the baby’s doctor agree it is safe for discharge.”

Why is the number of support people allowed to visit me now limited?

“Our hospital visitor policies were changed to help limit potential exposure to the virus for our patients and associates. With this virus, the more people you are exposed to, the higher the chance of transmission. In other areas of the hospital, there are no visitors allowed at all, but we felt that the birth of a child was a significant life event for which your partner’s presence is essential. The only time your partner would not be allowed to accompany you is if he or she is acutely ill or recently tested positive for COVID0-19. In those cases, you would be allowed to designate an alternate support person to be with you.”

Should or could I plan to use Skype or FaceTime for an additional support person?

“Yes, if you would like to. Each care site has some specific rules and guidelines around when and how Skype or FaceTime can be used, but your physician and nursing team will be happy to work with you to find what works best. For your postpartum stay, you can video chat as often as you’d like with as many friends and family as you can tolerate.”

Is there a plan to lift visitor restrictions, especially for support people like Doulas or midwives?

“Yes. Once the outbreak is more contained and we have a better handle on who may or may not be infected or a carrier, we will revisit the restrictions. We are looking at recommendations from the State of Ohio on a daily basis to see when and how we can safely reopen our unit to other support people.”

What other things should parents know?

“First, you will not be separated from your baby unless you or your baby is sick. While we understand there can be stress from having only one support person with you in the hospital and no extra visitors, it is also a unique opportunity to get to know your baby. Take a day or two away from all the normal stresses of life to spend some quality time, uninterrupted, with your new addition.

Second, your physician may do more rounding or visits with you virtually by phone or video. If you need an in-person exam or you are having issues that need face-to-face interaction, just let your physician know.

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t panic. Early data is showing that this virus is not negatively affecting pregnant women any more than age or risk in nonpregnant women. Follow the Ohio Department of Health’s guidelines for social distancing, hand-washing and wearing a mask. Let your physician know if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 and they will assist you with the proper care.”

So, to all the pregnant mamas out there, I see you! Don’t be afraid to speak with your providers and ask them all of your questions. They are there to support you. With the constantly changing world we’re living in, it’s better to ask the questions and calm your mind than dwell. Something else I have also focused on is coming up with a postpartum plan to make sure I feel relaxed at home through all of this. Start stocking up on lots of freezer meals and supplies so you won’t have to worry about leaving your house.

I keep telling myself one day we will all hopefully look back on this and think about how amazing and strong we were to be pregnant and give birth during a global pandemic.  And what I say at least once a day is, “This will certainly be a story for the grandkids!”

 

 

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