COVID-19 has upended lives. If you’re pregnant, you may wonder: Is it safe to give birth in a hospital? Is home birth an option? Here’s what you should know to stay safer.
Pregnancy can be an exciting and challenging time no matter when you’re due. However, if your due date is approaching during a global pandemic, you may have a lot of questions. Should I change my birth plan? Is it safe to give birth in a hospital? Here’s what you can do to keep yourself and baby safer before, during and after delivery.
Social distancing for expectant moms and labor and delivery partners
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you are more likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19 if you are pregnant. Certain underlying medical conditions and factors such as age or occupation can add to your risk for developing severe illness. If you could become pregnant, take precautions to stay as safe as possible, including staying in the house and avoiding public places, wearing a mask, and maintaining the social distancing and good hand hygiene that are recommended by government and health officials.
In addition to the expectant moms, significant others who will be present in the labor and delivery room should limit, if at all possible, their time outside of the home. They should work from home if at all possible and stay home with the expectant mother.
“This is especially important during that last two or three weeks leading up to delivery,” said Jennifer C. Evans, M.D., MPH, system vice president, pediatric services, for Norton Healthcare. “The time of delivery is unpredictable, certainly, and a lot of specialists nationwide are really starting to talk about that three weeks preceding the due date.”
What to do about prenatal and postnatal checks?
When you’re pregnant and come to Norton Healthcare providers’ offices, we skip the waiting room and take you directly to the exam room. Obstetrics patients can have one visitor. We encourage expectant mothers to use FaceTime or other video conferencing tools to allow a significant other to be involved if they are sick or can’t attend an appointment. If you require support during your visit, please contact your provider’s office before your appointment. You will be asked to complete a health screening before you are seen. All patients in an outpatient setting must wear either a surgical mask or cloth face covering; we highly encourage you to arrive wearing a mask. Learn more about what we’re doing to keep you safer.
Not all expectant moms or significant others can stay at home due to their careers or personal situations. What should they do to protect themselves?
“If mom works in a high-traffic business such as a grocery store, I would recommend wearing a mask, along with constant hand hygiene or wearing gloves to protect herself as much as possible,” Dr. Evans said. “Certainly, she could ask to be in an area that’s less public-facing whenever possible so that there isn’t that contact face to face. Face shields are being used in a lot of businesses now, and I think that we’ll see more of that in the future.”
Visit NortonHealthcare.com/COVID-Vaccine for the latest information on vaccination.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination.
How safe is it to have a baby in a hospital?
“I feel that moms should feel secure coming into the hospital,” Dr. Evans said. “All employees are screened, wear masks and take precautions to be safer. We have significantly changed our visitor policies to keep patients and caregivers safer. Certainly, there are COVID-19 patients in the hospital, but not necessarily in labor and delivery. Somebody could be positive in labor and delivery, but we isolate them, and we also do that in the postpartum area.”
Mothers can choose to have a test for COVID-19 when they are admitted for delivery. For mothers who test positive for the coronavirus, protocols will be followed to protect mother and baby.
If you’re concerned about staying in the hospital after giving birth, talk to your OB/GYN or midwife.
If I’m social distancing, should I just consider a home birth?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and American Heart Association, hospitals and accredited birth centers remain the safest settings for births in the U.S. Both AAP and ACOG state that home birth is associated with maternal and infant complications, including a twofold to threefold increase in infant death and increased rates of neonatal seizures and low Apgar scores.
Should you consider a home birth, there are guidelines from ACOG and AAP for pregnancies that are considered the best candidates for at-home birth. Pregnant patients are considered eligible for home births if:
- They have no preexisting conditions or conditions that develop during a pregnancy, including diabetes or preeclampsia.
- The pregnancy is only one fetus.
- They are at least 37 weeks pregnant and less than 41 to 42 completed weeks of pregnancy.
- They are carrying the baby in the cephalic position (head-first presentation).
- Labor is spontaneous or induced as an outpatient.
- They have not previously had a cesarean section (C-section).
- They have not been transferred from another referring hospital.
ACOG states that if these criteria are not met, a planned home birth clearly is associated with a higher risk of infant death. The AAP states that two care providers should be present at a home birth — at least one should have the primary responsibility for the newborn, with the appropriate training, skills and equipment to perform full resuscitation of the infant according to the Neonatal Resuscitation Program.
Additionally, according to the CDC, all pregnant patients should be screened at 35 to 37 weeks’ gestation for group B streptococcus. Those with strep who are having home births should be given an antibiotic at home at least four hours before delivery.
If you are concerned about the coronavirus and giving birth in a hospital, talk to your OB/GYN or midwife.
Baby is healthy at home. How do you continue to keep your newborn safer?
“It’s really important that once mom takes her newborn baby home that they close their house to visitors,” Dr. Evans said. “Everyone’s anxious to see the baby and hug the new baby and kiss them and everything else, but that’s the last thing that we want, right now, is for people to be brought into the house. So really just staying at home and following the public health guidelines are the things to do. We definitely don’t want the kids to become infected.”
Note: Do not put a mask on a child under age 2.