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As several hospitals shift to ban spouses and birthing partners from labor and delivery rooms due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, an online petition to “safeguard the right of all laboring people to have support during COVID-19 crisis” has gone viral.
The petition, which is aimed at Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, where NewYork-Presbyterian has already moved to ban “visitors, including birth partners and support persons, for our obstetric patients,” had received over 120,000 signatures by Monday.
“We understand that this will be difficult for our patients and their loved ones, but we believe that this is a necessary step to promote patient safety,” the hospital said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Mount Sinai Health System also announced similar measures but is allowing for one healthy partner to accompany expectant mothers in the maternity and postpartum wards, according to guidelines posted on Twitter.
Dr. Manny Alvarez, Fox News contributor and chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology at Hackensack University Medical Center, said the measures may seem a “little draconian,” but “perhaps necessary,” especially in areas where there are a high number of coronavirus cases.
New York has seen over 20,000 cases of COVID-19, with as many as 78,000 residents already tested for the virus.
Alvarez said the measures are meant to protect both the mother and the newborn baby from any potential infection, especially as pregnant women are already susceptible to infections.
“For most pregnant women, all viral infections, sometimes are not tolerated that well,” he said. “I mean, we see that with the regular flu and other viral infections. And the reason that pregnant women fall into the high-risk category is that their immune system, naturally due to the pregnancy, is suppressed.”
Alvarez said pregnant women also undergo physiological changes in their chest and with their lung capacity as the fetus grows, putting them at higher risk for severe infection like pneumonia. He recommends that pregnant women practice social distancing and practice safe hygiene like hand-washing, frequent showers, and making sure their environment is clear of contaminated surfaces.
Alvarez also encouraged expectant mothers to maintain a balanced, nutritious diet that includes vitamin D.
“We want the mothers to be healthy and be clear of coronavirus when they deliver so that there’s no transmission [to the baby] post-delivery,” he said.
He also said it’s important to be in constant contact with health care providers regarding delivery plans as situations are varying from hospital to hospital.
“Just have an idea of how things stand in your delivery room so that you have a better experience, especially people that have scheduled repeat C-section, and folks that are being induced for some medical indication,” he said.
Alvarez also said it’s a good idea to have telecommunication tools in place so that loved ones can share in the moment, and to be prepared for several weeks of no contact with outside visitors once you return home.
“When a baby is inside the mother’s womb, it has incredible protection,” he said. “Once that baby is out, that newborn is basically now facing the world on their own and they have to adapt to that world. That includes all the viruses and bacteria that we normally have in our environment. This is the time where people have to be more careful and just keep that baby at home with the immediate family, mother, father, partner and try to keep that social distancing not only for themselves now, but for that little baby.”