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Coronavirus: What’s Happening with Prenatal Care, Labor and Delivery

~ Updated August 1, 2020

Back in March, new policies and procedures for prenatal care and labor & delivery were literally being devised and implemented on the fly. Months later, things have “normalized” (HAH) a little bit, but many particulars still remain in flux — and so do variations in practice depending on where you live. As information about COVID-19 continues to evolve, hospitals and practices across the country are still revising and updating their protocols regularly.

The sad reality is labor and delivery today is entirely different from what anyone would have expected, and it probably will be for a quite a while, on account of COVID-19. We’re sorry — it’s so sh*tty. (Although, you may be in a better place now compared to several weeks/months earlier, when things were escalating rapidly.)

Every state and hospital is tackling things differently — there is no blanket protocol right now. And without sufficient data, everyone is being overly cautious.

Prenatal Care:

  • As much as is possible, regularly-scheduled prenatal check-ups are being conducted virtually, via telehealth appointments;
  • Some offices are having women take their own vitals and measurements at home for virtual appointments;
  • Many locations are holding clinic visits only for necessarily in-person tests and screenings, such as ultrasounds and lab work (and are enforcing careful physical distancing measures for any such appointments as well as trying to consolidate those visits for as few encounters as possible — many places are also conducting temperature checks first thing);
  • The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommends that no support persons or visitors be allowed to accompany women for in-person prenatal appointments;
  • Some practices have cut certain nonessential prenatal appointments entirely;
  • Prenatal education and childbirth classes have moved to the cybersphere.

Here’s the University of Michigan’s visual graphic depicting the changes in care there:

→ See also: Coronavirus: Children and Pregnant Women

Labor/Delivery:

  • Many hospitals are barring L&D wards (maternity wards) to protect women and babies from exposure to COVID-19;
  • Although NYC hospitals initially barred any visitors during L&D, that policy was reversed after a few days, and the overwhelming trend since has been to allow one (asymptomatic) individual to accompany a mother (*this is likely what most women will encounter);
  • L&D wards are still reserved for that purpose — you can still expect to have space for your birth, as you would normally;
  • More hospitals are working to test all women admitted for labor and delivery automatically, and in many places, COVID-positive mothers are delivering in separate sections of the maternity ward;
  • Some OB teams are dividing their health care personnel between inpatient and outpatient to help minimize exposure;
  • Postpartum visitors are also being restricted, in both number and movement (they can’t come and go);
  • ***If you test positive for COVID-19, the most current recommendation from the CDC and ACOG is that you and your health care providers seriously consider mother-infant separation (in different rooms) for 14 days (if testing is unavailable) — this would literally be so heartbreaking, but we want you know about this possibility in case you end up in this boat. Since testing is more widely available now, hopefully you won’t;
  • If you are not COVID-19 positive, your doctor/hospital may be more open to your going home sooner, which has been reported by most moms who recently delivered.

BTW, most health authorities — including practicing midwives and nurse-midwives — are not recommending changing your plans to have a home birth (especially at the last minute).

coronavirus and prenatal care protocol

Here’s Heather’s live Q&A with her mom, Dr. Dianne, from March 21st, 2020 (which already feels like a lightyear ago…), but many of the points are still relevant, including what’s happening for prenatal care:

We wish you the best of luck as you embark upon your new journey during this challenging and unprecedented time. Once you’ve welcomed your new baby, read on for more resources to get you through the postpartum phase. Deep breath, mama.

See also: Emily Oster on Delivering Alone

Back to Coronavirus Resource Page

Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this article, Heather. That’s very relevant information, everyone’s scared and supposed to stay at their homes. People should know more about this disease, I already showed this article to some of my friends.

    https://easytobemom.com/

  2. Avatar

    I asked a colleague this morning about other medical cases and how they will get assistance in this period. Love the way you explained every aspect of this article. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for this. I am 2 weeks away from my delivery date and I am getting so beyond nervous. This was a little bit helpful. God willing my baby and I have a healthy delivery and get home as fast as possible.

  4. Avatar

    I just found out I’m pregnant and this is not at all what I expected when we did our IVF transfer. I feel for all the expecting and new parents out there (and anyone, really). It’s a very uncertain time. Thank you for this article. If you have any leads on Canadian sources covering similar data I’d love to hear it!

  5. Avatar

    I delivered our son at 41 weeks on Tuesday. Our hospital (MN) allowed one healthy support person for L&D and recovery. No visitors otherwise. We were discharged less than 48 hours after emergency c-section which surprised my L&D nurse but we were both very healthy and there was no identifiable reason to keep us another day. Without being able to have visitors and not really move around much, we didn’t want to stay at the hospital anyway. Good luck to everyone heading into delivery soon. Keep and open mind (I did) as things are changing rapidly and what you read today may be entirely different by the time you arrive to the hospital. This is a strange time to be having a baby!!

  6. Avatar

    Thank you for updating the public about this. I would like to clear up one misconception-YOU ARE NOT DELIVERING ALONE. Labor and delivery nurses are some of the best around and they are with you 1 on 1 when you are pushing, as well as throughout the labor process. OBGYN physicians are also extremely supportive and in this scary and uncertain time, we will work together to make it a wonderful birth experience. The birth is just one moment of a lifetime with your child. Some people do not have any support person outside of this covid-19 epidemic, and the nurses and doctors are used to taking special care with these patients. Please don’t forget you will not be alone!
    Your friendly OBGYN

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