So, as we hear reports of the influx of COVID-19 patients into hospitals, it’s no surprise that expecting couples and parents with new babies are feeling unsure about how to keep their growing families healthy.
But the good news is, in many cases, the work of bringing babies into the world hasn’t changed too much. Dr. Thomas Jones, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Hancock Health, answers the most common questions he’s hearing these days:
Q: What are the biggest challenges new parents have as they try to navigate COVID-19?
A: There’s a lot of information out there that says pregnant women are at a higher risk for getting coronavirus, but there’s no evidence to suggest that. Based on the information we have from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are no more likely to get COVID-19 than the general population. But they still need to take all the precautions we are encouraging people to take, especially social distancing.
Q: What advice are you giving patients?
A: The same guidelines we’re giving everybody else: Wash your hands (with soap and water and for 20 seconds each time), don’t touch your face, and don’t go out unless you absolutely need to. I think social distancing is really important and that means our pregnant patients unfortunately can’t visit their extended families. It’s really unfair because it’s a time in life when everybody wants to see them, and they want to see everybody else. It just rains on their parade. I’ve said that at every one of my appointments in the last two weeks and I’m emphasizing that we think it’ll be for a short time and, when it’s over, the whole family will get to enjoy the baby.
Q: Are your patients anxious about the virus? What are you telling them to do for their mental health?
A: Moms are anxious. I try to reassure them that hopefully this looks like it’s a short time thing. And we’re suggesting they call us (at 317-477-6500) or their medical provider with their concerns or questions because we don’t want them getting advice from social media or the internet. There’s just too much incorrect information out there.
I haven’t seen it yet, but I think coronavirus could contribute to postpartum depression. It puts additional stress into the pile—not only do moms have a new baby and they’re trying to figure all of those processes out, but now they are afraid to even go out of their homes.
Q: Any anxiety-reducing tips for expecting parents and parents with newborns?
A: Getting out of the house will help because it can be overwhelming to be stuck in 24/7. And there are some safe ways it can be done: Take the baby for a drive in the car or a walk around the neighborhood. But if they go for a walk, they have to tell people to stay six feet away, which can be difficult. I think they have to be straightforward with folks.
They can also use video calls to socialize with their family and show other members the new addition to the family.
Q: What labor and delivery practices have changed at Hancock Health because of the virus?
A: Moms are limited in terms of visitors when they go into labor. They are only allowed one support person— and we ask the support person to wear a mask.
Q: Is there a situation when a woman in labor wouldn’t be able to have a support person at all in the hospital with her?
A: I don’t see that happening.
Q: What should parents do once they get home with a new baby?
A: One big thing has changed: We’re recommending they don’t have anyone in the home except the infant’s parents. That’s difficult for a lot of new moms because, most of the time, that’s where people get their relief—grandma comes over and takes care of the baby.
Q: Are expecting moms still coming in for prenatal visits?
A: Yes. We want them to get their prenatal care. We are still actively seeing all of our OB patients for their regular visits, but they will notice that our waiting rooms are mostly empty, which is a good thing.
Q: What’s the procedure for prenatal visits? Anything changed?
A: We’re asking them to arrive at the office alone. I’m sure that’s anxiety-provoking for some because, a lot of times, spouses will remember some of the couple’s questions. (Tip: Make a list of questions, with the help of your spouse, the day before your appointment.) And, we’ve also started asking them to wear a mask. If they don’t have a mask, we give them one.
Q: What if a pregnant patient tests positive for COVID-19?
A: We’re going to ask her to come by herself to prenatal visits, give her a mask you and, as much as possible, keep her separate from others in the office. The provider, whether that’s me or the nurse practitioner, is going to wear an N95 mask.
But as long as she doesn’t have significant shortness of breath, we are just going to follow recommendations for the general population: Tell her to separate herself from the people she lives with, wash her hands (a lot), and follow all of the other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Q: What will you do if someone who is COVID-19 positive goes into labor?
A: She can still have her spouse or support person with her (because that person has probably already been exposed) and we are going to have her wear a mask. And, unfortunately, she is going to be separated from her baby—by at least six feet—until she is without fever or symptoms for seven days. (Following delivery, the mother can choose to keep her baby in the same room with her, but the six feet of distance is important.)
Q: Is a COVID-19 positive mother still able to give her baby breast milk?
A: Yes. She will still be able to pump her milk but, unfortunately, we don’t recommend that she feed her baby herself until she is without fever or symptoms for seven days. Her milk will come in, though, and be there when she comes out of isolation. (Note: If the new mom chooses to breastfeed her baby herself, despite a coronavirus diagnosis, hospital staff will accommodate that.)
Q: If a mother has the virus, will the baby be born with the virus?
A: There’s currently no solid evidence to suggest the virus goes through the placenta and affects the baby.
Despite the complications associated with COVID-19, we want all of our expectant parents to enjoy their life changing moments as much as possible. If you’re a new or expecting parent with questions, don’t hesitate to contact us and, please remember, we’re all in this together!
Dr. Thomas Jones can be reached at 317-477-6500. His office is located at 300 E. Boyd, Suite 208, Greenfield.