Giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic: Tips on staying calm
While research is ongoing into the effects the novel coronavirus may have on pregnant women and unborn children, anxiety about delivering a baby in the middle of a pandemic is high among many mothers. Recently hospitals moved to ban or limit spouses and partners accompanying expectant mothers into labor and delivery wards in an effort to lower the risk of possible transmission within the facility.
While the move has resulted in a viral online petition directed at New York officials, where tests have so far confirmed over 25,000 cases of COVID-19, doctors say patients should be reassured by the steps their hospitals are taking to keep them safe.
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Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/LINCOLN, said that expectant moms should discuss the situation with their physician ahead of time so they know what to expect prior to arriving at the hospital.
Gaither said that pregnant women who are experiencing possible coronavirus symptoms should also be prepared to be placed in an isolation area for assessment.
"If you are COVID-19 positive, you will be placed in an isolation room, and once the baby is born, he or she will be isolated and tested for COVID-19," Gaither said. "Your obstetrician/pediatrician will guide you more on the specifics, pending your clinical situation."
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Gaither said that it’s important at this time to be prepared and flexible regarding birth plans and hospital stays and to be prepared to bring your baby home without any visitors. Online tools such as patient portals as well as support groups can help lessen the burden of becoming a new mom in such a rapidly changing situation.
"It’s crucial to reach out to family and friends via social media and video chat," she said, adding that if you experience any signs of depression you should reach out to your health care provider for additional help and direction.
In the meantime, all pregnant women should be looking to maximize their immune system and adhering to the advice given by public health officials to avoid crowds and sick people, Gaither said. She also advised pregnant women to have their vitamin D levels tested.
"Getting vitamin D is especially important now since everyone is staying inside with COVID-19 and potentially not getting any sunlight," she said. "Research shows the risk of premature birth decreases by 60 percent when pregnant women have vitamin D blood serum levels of 40 ng/ml or higher."
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Pregnant women should also focus on remaining calm during this time and keeping up with prenatal care visits.
"Know that your medical facility is doing everything to keep you and your baby safe," Gaither said. "Standard of care is still alive and well. Discussion with your physician is advised to go over birth plans and to evaluate what is and is not feasible during this time of COVID-19."