Giving birth during COVID-19: What expecting moms need to know

Pregnancy during COVID-19By Dr. Kimberly Heller, OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine Director, Nuvance Health

We know many expecting moms and their partners have a specific birthing experience in mind, and have imagined what it will be like to bring their newborn baby home. The COVID-19 pandemic is temporarily changing the way our hospitals and communities function. These changes are all to help keep our patients, staff and communities safe and healthy, and to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, many expecting moms and partners wonder how this will affect their birthing experience and their newborn baby.

Am I in a high-risk category because of my pregnancy?
At this time, it appears that a COVID-19 infection is not severe in most pregnant women, although this is based on limited information. COVID-19 also does not seem to harm unborn babies, although this is also based on very limited information.

What if I develop cough, fever or other symptoms during pregnancy?
If you are severely ill or have difficulty breathing, get medical attention immediately. If you have respiratory illness symptoms such as cough, fever or shortness of breath, call your OB/GYN or primary care physician. They will screen you for possible symptoms of COVID-19, and help you with next steps if you meet criteria for testing.

Is there special health advice I should follow?
Pregnant women should follow the same health advice recommended to the community. Because we know COVID-19 is primarily spread from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, it’s important that we all practice proper hygiene. This includes washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds at a time. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your face — eyes, nose, and mouth — and cover your coughs and sneezes with the bend of your arm. When greeting people, avoid shaking hands, hugging, or kissing.

It’s also very important to follow government executive orders and public health guidelines for social distancing (stay at least six feet away from each other), avoid being in large groups of people, and postpone nonessential appointments, errands and travel. By taking these measures, you’re helping to keep yourself and your family, friends, and community safe from possible exposure to COVID-19.

Am I allowed to have a support partner or visitors when I’m in the hospital?
A support partner and doula are allowed during labor through discharge from the hospital if specific criteria are met, such as they pass a screening for COVID-19 risk factors. For the full visitor policy, click here.

To continuously ensure a healthy and safe environment for patients and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, no visitors are allowed at any Nuvance Health hospital or facility until further notice. This includes our maternity patients in order to protect you and your newborn baby from possible exposure to COVID-19.

We truly appreciate everyone’s cooperation and look forward to removing this temporary visitor policy as soon as conditions allow. In the meantime, please consider using technology to stay connected to family and friends during your stay at the hospital.

How will you protect me on the maternity unit?
All maternity patients are screened for COVID-19 risk factors when they enter the hospital. If they are suspected or confirmed COVID-19, they will be put into an isolation room for safety reasons.

How will you protect my infant on the maternity unit?
If mothers are not ill and have not been exposed to COVID-19 at the time of delivery, their baby will be able to stay with them and they will be encouraged to breastfeed as usual.

How can I protect my infant when we go home?
We are encouraging mothers to be discharged from the hospital as soon as it is medically safe.

Although your friends and family will be anxious to meet your new baby, you should limit the baby’s exposure to as few people as possible for the next few weeks, or as long as there are federal and state guidelines in place for social distancing. Discourage family and friends from traveling until it is deemed safe.

Can I breastfeed?
There is no evidence that COVID-19 is in breast milk. Therefore, even if you are suspected COVID-19, you will still be encouraged to breastfeed. You will be instructed in the safest way to provide breast milk to your baby.

Bottom line: All of us at Nuvance Health are concerned about your health, the health of your baby  and the health of your entire family. We are making decisions with the safety of our mothers and babies as our first and main priority. We are well-prepared to care for you and your baby and we are planning for all possible scenarios.