This is a very difficult time across the world. Our daily lives have changed as we live in this new world known as COVID-19 social isolation. We have discussed many different concerns such as staying healthy, reducing risk of infection, maintaining mental health during this time of stress, and how to best see your doctor to continue to care for your chronic medical conditions. Another group of people suffering during this unusual time are all the patients and family members who are expecting a new member of the family. This is supposed to be the most exciting time of their lives, filled with joy and hope in this new life growing and developing. They have long awaited the excitement of baby showers with family and friends, and when the blessed time comes, sharing that new bundle of joy with those same loved ones. COVID-19 has changed all of this for these patients and all the family members who are now nervous and worried about how COVID-19 will impact them and their baby. All those parents and grandparents and other family members and friends out there need to understand what to expect, how to help, and what changes need to be made.
First off, it is very important to follow the rules of isolation as a pregnant mom. Although this is usually a low risk population of healthy young women, we do not want moms or babies getting sick with COVID-19, so to avoid any chances with these fragile young lives, the best thing to do is to prevent infection in Mom. A pregnant mom who gets sick from COVID-19 can go into preterm labor as a complication of the illness, putting the baby at a much higher risk if born premature. As discussed in prior articles, to avoid maternal infection means being diligent about washing hands, staying home, and avoiding being around other friends and family outside those that you live with. It is also a good idea to send someone else in the family to the store to avoid risk of picking up the germs while in public. If this is not possible, it is a good idea to wash your hands and carts with sanitizing wipes, wash again before you get into the car, and one last time with soap and water when you get home. Wearing a cloth or simple mask is currently recommended, but remember, this practice is to prevent sharing the illness with other people in case we are asymptomatic carriers or before we realize we are sick with the illness. As tempting as it may be to have those baby showers, to want to be with family and friends at this special time, we encourage you to delay all those social interactions until it is a safer time to congregate and be together. In the meantime, be sure to use technology such as Zoom, Facetime, Viber or other such apps to connect to people, so they can see you and the baby grow. Although it will not be the same, give virtual baby showers a try, or plan to wait until it is safe and everyone can meet baby at that time. It is also important to stay healthy by getting regular exercise such as daily walks and eating a healthy balanced diet.
Obstetrical care has changed because of COVID-19, much like other parts of medicine during this time. We may not be seeing women in the office as often as they are used to at the beginning of the pregnancy, spreading out some visits six weeks apart for most of the pregnancy until the last two months. This is to help reduce risks of exposure in the clinic and keep these women home as much as possible. Please do keep your scheduled appointments with your doctor as routine care is still very important. Please also know that a lot of attention has been put into seeing you in the safest way possible. You may want to call first and confirm your appointments as we have made a lot of changes to the provider’s schedules to be sure they are low risk when seeing patient’s face to face. When it comes to labor and delivery, it is very important to have only one support person come into the hospital with them and stay for the entire labor, delivery, and postpartum care to limit visitors and comings and goings from the hospital. This is not only for the safety and health of mom and baby, but also for our other staff and patients. If a patient has COVID-19 while in labor, we will be using personal protective equipment, and having mom and dad wear a mask and do diligent hand washing for newborn feedings and care. We do not want to separate moms and babies during the newborn bonding phase, but we will have baby sleep in a bassinet 6 feet away when not feeding to try to reduce exposure as much as possible. There may be some subtle changes in the medical care provided as we take extra precautions for a safe and healthy delivery, especially since transfers and emergency deliveries may need to be avoided.
With all this being said, it is very important for patients to realize that even with COVID-19 out there, it is still safer to deliver in the hospital rather than at home. If there are COVID-19 patients in the hospital at the time of your delivery, we may shorten the time mom and baby stay in the hospital when possible and appropriate with close follow up after discharge. We will also have appropriate staff care for the mom and baby. When you are discharged from the hospital, it will be very important to continue social isolation to protect your beautiful newborn, even though family and friends will be very eager to meet him or her. Once again, consider technology for video chats and allow close family to stop by outside and see baby through a window. This is a scary time full of uncertainties, but one thing you can be certain of is that we are working every day to provide safe care for our community, especially pregnant women and newborn babies.
Written by Dr. Charity Robinson, Family Practice Provider at Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics