What to Expect When Having a Baby Right Now
Ask any expectant mother how they imagined their pregnancy and delivery would be and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who dreamt up the scenario many mothers are facing right now ahead of giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you will be delivering your baby soon, you’re probably wondering how the pandemic and new hospital protocols might affect your labor and delivery. That’s why we spoke to Marquita Anderson, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist on the medical staff at Texas Health HEB and Texas Health Women’s Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, to answer any questions you may have about what to expect.
Is it safe to give birth in a hospital during COVID-19?
Although entering a hospital right now may seem daunting, a hospital or accredited birthing center is still the safest place to have your baby, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). If a problem were to arise during or after birth, care team members, including neonatologists, OB hospitalists and maternal fetal medicine specialists on the medical staff, are available to provide personalized care and support for you and your baby, quickly. In addition, if you have an increased risk of complication, such as a multiple birth or pre-existing medical condition, a hospital is equipped to handle these emergent needs.
But in order to maintain a high level of safety within the hospital, Texas Health has had to implement amended visitor policies as well as admission protocols for all hospital guests.
“Hospitals have tightened up on their visitor policies,” Anderson says. “The number of people that are allowed to be in and out of the hospital that are not actual patients is minimal.”
In addition, COVID-19 testing is being performed on all labor and delivery admissions. If there are patients that are suspected to have the infection, measures are being taken as far as the type of room, dedicated care teams, etc. so that exposure and potential spread can be minimized.
All care team members as well as patients are also required to wear masks while in the hospital, and physicians and staff are practicing frequent handwashing and utilizing additional protective equipment when necessary such as eye protection and face shields.
Can you still have a “natural” childbirth experience despite COVID-19?
“Moms are still offered most of what was offered prior to the onset of COVID-19 for their birth experience,” Anderson explains. “One thing that has been altered is the ability to walk around freely in the hallways. Although it is not completely prohibited, you are strongly encouraged to stay in your personal room and this is also encouraged for your support person as well.”
Epidurals are still available as well as other labor management techniques if mom desires.
Are there visitor limitations and how can they affect your delivery day?
As we touched on earlier, visitor policies have been amended to increase safety. Currently you may have one support person for labor and delivery and postpartum. You can also have a paid professional doula for the duration of labor and delivery. Please note that if you test positive for COVID-19 your doula will not be allowed to participate as part of your maternal care team.
How can you share your childbirth experience with friends and family?
Texas Health understands what a joyous moment bringing your bundle of joy into the world can be for not just you and your partner, but everyone who is close to you. So we also understand how difficult it is to not be able to physically share in that moment with them.
Many patients are finding unique ways to still make it a memorable experience for all those around them through pictures and video captured in the room, such as these creative moms.
Any things expectant moms should still be mindful of during this time?
“My advice to expectant mothers is to continue to protect yourselves and your family as best as you can,” Anderson says. “Practice frequent and thorough hand washing. When you do go out in public follow the social distancing guidelines, keeping space between you and others when at all possible. It’s difficult to stay in the house all day every day, so it is okay to get out but I would suggest keeping outings to the minimum right now and wear a protective face covering when you are in public as has been recommended by the CDC.
“If you have any major concerns or questions, always remember that your physician and health care team is there to take care of you,” she adds. “Ask your questions and get the information you need. Stay in communication — it is never a bother. Your concerns are our concerns as well.”
While it’s normal under the best of circumstances to feel anxious before childbirth — pandemic or not — your delivery day can still be the joyous, personalized, unforgettable and safe experience you were dreaming of.
For more information about what to expect during your maternity stay, visit TexasHealth.org/COVID-Pregnancy.
Read inspiring stories from other Texas Health Moms who have delivered their baby during the COVID-19 pandemic.